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Hedy Lamarr

In honor of Women's History Month, Artemis highlights science and engineering pioneers whose vision, grit, and tenacity led to today’s ultra-high performance tech. Today, we spotlight Hedy Lamarr—a mid-Century Hollywood star and wartime innovator whose contributions to Signal technology helped define the way we communicate today. Her visionary work has earned her the title “The Mother of Wifi.”



Austrian-American actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr pioneered the technology that underpins modern communication systems such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. A Hollywood star who headlined blockbusters such as Samson and Delilah and Boom Town, her acting career was celebrated throughout her lifetime though her genius for invention was, until the late 1990s, largely ignored.


Born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria on November 9th, 1914, Lamarr was the only child of a wealthy Jewish family. Her father was a banker who recognized his daughter’s brilliant mind and fostered her curiosity, prompting her at age five to disassemble a music box just to see how it worked. Her artistic attributes were simultaneously cultivated by her concert pianist mother who insisted Lamarr take ballet and piano lessons throughout her childhood.


In 1930, Lamarr met director Max Reinhardt who took her to Berlin to study acting. That year she landed a small film role and by 1932 had become known for a featured part in the film, Ecstasy. By 1933 Lamarr had married Austrian munitions dealer, Fritz Mandl. The relationship, set against the fomenting war in Europe, was stressful for Lamarr and relatively short-lived. She left the marriage in 1937 by fleeing to London—but not without taking a deep knowledge of wartime weaponry which she had gleaned over social conversations with Mandl’s associates, many of whom were Nazis or Nazi sympathizers.


Lamarr’s fortunes improved in London where she met Louis B. Mayer, leader of MGM Studios, one of the most powerful production companies of its day. Mayer introduced her to Hollywood where her smoldering on screen presence catapulted her to international stardom.


Among Lamarr’s new network of friends was Howard Hughes, the notorious American businessman and pilot. Though romantically connected for a time, they were chiefly bonded by a love of invention. It was Hughes who gave Lamarr the portable science lab she kept in her on-set trailer so she could continue to innovate between takes.


Lamarr made good use of that portable set, as well as the equipment that she kept in her home. Lamarr’s most significant invention—the one still referenced by modern communications technology—would emerge as the United States prepared to enter World War II.



Fueled by a desire to contribute to the war effort and armed with insider information about Nazi weaponry, Lamarr began mulling ideas about ways to combat the Nazi threat. In 1940, she and American composer George Antheil devised an extraordinary new communication system intended to guide American torpedoes to targets without detection. “Frequency hopping” enabled both transmitter and receiver to jump simultaneously to new frequencies, preventing the radio waves from being intercepted long enough for torpedo's to reach their target.


Lamarr and Antheil patented their invention and gave it to the US Military, though the Navy never implemented frequency hopping. In fact, the Lamarr Antheil patent expired well before its authors received public recognition for their role in expanding the communications technology frontier. Toward the end of her life, as technology began advancing at an unprecedented rate—due in large part to her visionary work in the 1940s—Lamarr’s inventive genius began to receive recognition. In 1997, she was honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award and in 2024, she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.



Hedy Lamarr’s early contributions to Signal technology helped shape the way we communicate today. Most modern consumer and commercial communications systems rely on WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth, which are also among the major communications technologies used in state-of-the-art defense and aeronautics solutions.


In fact, the United States Government itself owns the Global Positioning System (GPS) and it is operated by the US Air Force, together with NASA. So, while the military of the 1940s could not find a way to harness the power of frequency hopping, Lamarr achieved her goal of contributing to the long-term national safety goals of her adopted country (she became a US citizen in 1953).

Hedy Lamarr died on January 19, 2000.



Technology is an innovation continuum. We are inspired by Hedy Lamarr’s contribution to the big ideas that led to the world’s most advanced modern communications systems. She displayed passionate conviction, integrity, authenticity, and fearlessness in her collaborative quest with Antheil to discover a way to thwart what was the biggest threat against humanity of her time—Nazism. We also applaud her unwavering pursuit of meaningful innovation during an era when it would have been much easier for her—as a woman of renowned beauty and power—to simply rest on the laurels of her fame. Instead, she overcame the obstacle of her celebrity in the pursuit of progress and innovation.