Hedy Lamarr was one of Hollywood's biggest stars during the golden age of cinema, starring in over 35 films alongside the likes of Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Bob Hope. Most of her fame comes from the fact that she gave us one of cinema's first sex scenes, and surprisingly little attention is given to the fact that she basically invented the modern Wi-Fi and cellphone network. Because, hey, tits.
Hitler denounced and banned the film in Germany, which makes it even cooler.
Lamarr had a secret passion for invention, and in fact, by all accounts, she was the world's sexiest mad scientist. While walking down red carpets and simulating onscreen orgasms by day, Lamarr was working in her laboratory by night. Her creations include a fluorescent dog collar and modifications to the Concorde, but most notably, she invented a torpedo guidance system that would actually go on to become the basis of all our wireless communications today.
"This massive phone makes my head look adorable. I must call the '80s and tell them."
The idea came about with help from a pianist friend of hers, George Antheil, who helped her design a system for encrypting radio signals using similar principles to a player piano, with perforated paper rolls. Their resulting creation, the unimaginatively named Secret Communication System, was patented in 1942. And if you think it sounds like an awfully primitive device for us to be calling "Wi-Fi," you're right -- but although it was cobbled together from piano parts like a Rube Goldberg machine, it was nevertheless an analogue version of what is known as "spread-spectrum communication technology," which is the basic technology behind all our wireless toys, just with more sophisticated parts.
This version was powered by her huge glowing aura.
So why aren't we celebrating Hedy Lamarr as a 1940s version of Steve Jobs? When Lamarr offered her technology to the military, the men in charge laughed and told her not to worry her pretty little head over such things, treating her piano-powered radio system like a child's attempt to build a robot out of toilet paper rolls. They told her that she could best fight Hitler by being pretty and selling war bonds. It wasn't until the 1960s and the Cuban Missile Crisis that the military looked at her invention and recognized its genius. Of course, by that time, her patent had expired. Hard luck, Hedy.
"Look, we have a quota for treating women like humans, and Barbara Cartland beat you to it."
So the next time you're having a conversation with Paris Hilton or one of the Kardashian sisters, pay close attention; that vapid-seeming celebutante just might be inventing time travel.
"Pay close attention to what Kim Kardashian says." That is the worst advice we have ever given in the history of this site.
Adam regards himself as a minor Internet celebrity, and while he shamefully doesn't own any patents (yet), he writes for his own site. You can read the rest of his Cracked articles here.
For more celebrity hidden talents, check out 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About and 11 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Total Badasses.
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