Happy Ada Lovelace Day

Hedy Lamarr

Today is International Ada Lovelace Day, a day of blogging in celebration of women in science and technology. I’ve blogged a few times before about women in these areas including the myth of the computer science gene and women and open source.

So in honour of the day I want to say a little bit about Hedy Lamarr, an actor and engineer who helped invent an early form of spread spectrum communications technology, the basis for Wi-Fi.

She led a pretty amazing life and is one of the reasons I am writing this blog on my lap-top on my sofa (well, her and my utter laziness)

10 Facts about her:

  1. Born in 1914 in Vienna, her name was Hedwig
  2. Her mother was a pianist and her father a bank director.
  3. Her film career was stifled by her controlling husband, an arms manufacturer, so instead she set about learning about military technology.
  4. Although her husband was half-Jewish (she was also Jewish), he hung out with Hitler and Mussolini. This obviously didn’t sit easy with her and so she disguised herself as one of the maids and fled to Paris where she got a divorce and moved on to London.
  5. He was the first of six husbands.
  6. In London and then Hollywood, she went back to making films but got into developing a secret communication system with her neighbour, the avant garde composer George Antheil, after getting into a conversation about radio controlled torpedos.
  7. Her idea of “frequency hopping” was completely new and Antheil’s contribution was the suggested device for synchronization.
  8. It was ahead of its time but ended up becoming the basis of modern spread-spectrum communication technology such as most WiFi networks.
  9. She died in 2000 and in 2003, Boeing ran an ad campaign featuring her as a woman of science, not referring to her acting career.
  10. In 2005, the first ‘Inventors Day’ was held in German-speaking countries on 9 November, her birthday.

I think, I think I love her.

5 Responses to “Happy Ada Lovelace Day”

  • Kristjan Wager Says:

    Yes, Hedy Lamarr is a very remarkable woman. It’s incredible that most people are unaware of her great contributions to science, and to the technology we use in daily life.

  • Tinky Says:

    I had no idea she had this other side until now! Now we need to invent something that will make us look like that photo WHILE we’re sitting with our laptops on our laps………

  • Sakib Says:

    Hedy Lamarr was a seriously cool and surprising person, everything about her oozed mystery and charm, even her name has a sense of mystique. She combined brains and beauty and she was a gleaming pearl in a golden era.

  • Alice Says:

    What an incredible lady! I am seriously not into films and I had never heard of her. I looked her up on your link and Wiki, and I was fascinated and very deeply impressed. Just the sort of brilliance and ability to do things that I’d like to have. Her Wiki entry mentions she wanted to join the National Society of Inventors, but they fobbed her off and told her she should be using her celebrity status to raise money instead. Typical! I wonder what else she’d have invented if the Open University, for example, had been around in her time?

  • jon edvard killi Says:

    u amaze me. very happy to read this.
    judging from the number of husbandz i wuzz not the only one in love w/her. jealous.
    but respectful.

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