November 12, 2015

Glamorous Inventor: Hedy Lamarr (November 09, 1914-January 19, 2000)

Hedy Lamarr, accredited with the statement “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid”, was one of the most glamorous and beautiful women of her time. Yet, she did not stand still and was anything but stupid. 

Ms. Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was one of the most acclaimed actresses of her time.  Commemorating her 101th birthday, and as celebrated by last weeks’ Google Doodle, we should remember her not only as an actress but also as a remarkable inventor.   

Lamarr, the glamorous Hollywood actress was a co-inventor, together with avant-garde composer and pianist George Antheil (July 1900-February 1959), of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) method, which led the way to modern wireless communication protocols utilized in GPS and CDMA cellular telephony.  The invention was the result of Lamarr’s interest in torpedoes (perhaps due to her first husband, Austrian military arms merchant) and was intended to prevent Nazi blocking signals from radio-controlled torpedoes. Although the invention was not utilized at the time, a US patent 2292387 titled “Secret Communication System” was granted in 1942 to the duo and the two were inducted to the US National Inventors Hall of Fame. 

It is interesting to note how the two inventors, with no technical background, each drew on their own experiences and interests to devise the system subject of the patent.

Happy Birthday Hedy Lamarr!

Author: Dr. Maya Smailov, Patent Attorney


This article is provided for general information only. It is not intended as legal advice or opinion and cannot be relied upon as such. Advice on specific matters may be provided by our group’s attorneys.

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