In 1941, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr devised a system and submitted a patent for radio signals that changed frequencies.


Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Heidi Lamar) was born in Vienna. She is most famous as the first woman to appear nude in a mainstream film. In the same movie, she was also the first woman to fake an orgasm. If that wasn’t enough, she wrote the patent for her spread spectrum technology with orchestra director George Antheil.

In an age where Tesla was still alive and Edison only recently died nobody took the Hollywood bombshell and her band director seriously. Nevertheless, their invention eventually proved as important as anything the Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison, or The Man Who Invented the 20th Century, Tesla, ever released.

Eventually, in 1985, the US Federal Communications Commission opened bandwidth for unlicensed use. Wireless phones followed as a common use case. Subsequently, bathroom was never the same.

More significantly, in 1991, NCR invented a wireless data standard named WaveLAN for use in retail. WaveLAN extended Ethernet, the wired standard invented by Robert Metcalfe at Xerox PARC, over radio waves.

Wireless Ethernet, Wi-Fi

Eventually, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) — the standards committee for everything electronic – realized the need to beam data over radio waves, not wires.

Vic Hayes, chair of the IEEE, worked on the 802.11 standard released in 1997. Specifically, 802.11 is the wireless extension of wired Ethernet, invented by Metcalfe.

In 1997, a consortium of equipment makers created the Wi-Fi alliance and branded wireless ethernet (802.11), as Wi-Fi, trademarking the name.

Today, Wi-Fi is everywhere from individual homes to businesses. Walk into a coffee shop in Manhattan and they’ll offer Wi-Fi. Similarly, walk into a coffee shop in Hanoi and they’re also likely to offer Wi-Fi. Consumers expect water to be sold but there is a worldwide expectation for free wireless internet access.

Spread Spectrum Frequency Hopping


Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (Hedy Lamarr)
George Antheil

Spread spectrum frequency hopping synchronizes devices to speak over changing frequencies. The technology jumps from one frequency to another in a predetermined but predictable manner so that the sender and recipient can change simultaneously.

Lamarr and Antheil created the technology to contribute to the WWII effort, though it remains unclear if it was ever used during that time.

READ MORE: Hedy Lamarr: Inventive Actress
Hedy Lamarr

In 1941, Austrian born Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr worked with composer George Antheil to create a new wireless transmission method. Eventually, they created and patented a system to spread communications amongst different frequencies, jumping from one frequency to another seamlessly.

Up to the present time Lamarr’s innovation, which she never profited from, has enabled countless technologies.

Her innovation became useful long after her death. Mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and wireless technologies used in the military all depend on spread spectrum technology. Unless you are reading this via a printout or wired device, you are using Lamarr’s technology right now.

Lamarr is one of the early movie stars. Born in Austria, she married then divorced munitions dealer Fritz Mandl, who sold weapons to the Nazis, then fled to the United States. “I was like a doll. I was like a thing, some object of art which had to be guarded — and imprisoned — having no mind, no life of its own,” she said, describing an independent streak atypical at the time.

Lamarr was already relatively well-known in the film world due to her early movies, the most notable being the Czech film Ecstasy. She was the first known actress to appear nude in a film.

Despite her reputation as a “bombshell,” Lamar proved herself both brilliant and beautiful. Without a doubt, Lamarr proved herself to be one of the most significant wireless scientists and arguably one of the most prominent women inventors.