Hedy Lamarr: Star of the Silver Screen, Led the Way to WiFi?

Jonathon Keats, of New Scientist, has a post up at Gizmodo reviewing Richard Rhodes’ biography of Hedy Lamarr. What is perhaps most striking about the famous actress, was her capability as an inventor. Her most important invention: frequency hopping of wireless communications.

Her insight was that you could protect wireless communication from jamming by varying the frequency at which radio signals were transmitted: if the channel was switched unpredictably, the enemy wouldn’t know which bands to block. But her ingenious “frequency-hopping” idea was just a hunch until Lamarr met fellow amateur inventor George Antheil at a Hollywood dinner.

Although the military dismissed the idea, scientists in the 1950s and 60s delved deeper and the result, spread-spectrum technology, is integral to the operation of everything from cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a host of wireless communication standards that we often take for granted.

My Favorite Spy, starring Lamarr and Bob Hope is playing on Netflix, in case you are looking for something to watch this evening.