Delila the Inventor

Arguably most famous for her role in Samson and Delilah in 1940 with Victor Mature—one of my all-time favorites—Hedy Lamarr had an unusual hobby. Since she made two or three movies a year, each one taking a month to shoot, she had a lot of spare time and used it to practice inventing things on a drafting table in her Hollywood home.
She invented techniques for spread-spectrum communications and frequency hopping, a precursor of modern wireless communications. Inspired by the sinking of a cruise ship by Nazi U-boats, Lamarr came up with the idea of a radio signal that would hop around from radio frequency to radio frequency, preventing it from becoming jammed, also allowing torpedoes to be safely guided by radio from airplanes.  At that time only single-frequency radio-controlled technology could be used, where it wasn’t a big trick for the enemy to find the frequency and jam the radio signal. Lamarr’s innovation had the capability of changing the channel—if that frequency was jammed, the message could still get through on one of the other frequencies. 
The problem she struggled with was how to synchronize the frequency changes on both the receiver and the transmitter. She turns to techno-musician and composer George Antheil who possessed the technology to synchronize his songs across twelve player pianos, producing unprecedented stereophonic sounds, and together, working for months, were able to synchronize frequency changes between weapon receivers and transmitters. They were granted a patent; giving it to the U.S. Navy at no cost. The technology became the core science behind WiFi networks, cell phones and Bluetooths. The Electronic Frontier gave Lamarr its Pioneer Award in 1997 for creating the spread-spectrum technology.

When working with her in Berlin, director Max Reinhardt called her the, “most beautiful woman in Europe.” The heading on her website displays one of her quotes.
“I have not been that wise. Health I have taken for granted. Love I have demanded, perhaps too much and too often.  As for money, I have only realized its true worth when I didn’t have it.”
Hedy Lamarr’s was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria in 1913, and died in Florida in 2000.

4 thoughts on “Delilah

  1. Joe,

    I had heard this story before but couldn’t remember the actress and didn’t know all the details of the story. I heard it on late night Radio, Coast to Coast AM.

    Very interesting and inspirational!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~ Jupiter Jim

  2. BTW, I remember watching that movie as a kid and that was always one of my favorites!

  3. Yes, I saw the movie about her invention also. Very interesting how much difficulty she had getting the attention it deserved simply because she was a beautiful woman, but she did prevail!

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