How Hollywood Goddess Hedy Lamarr Helped Birth the Modern Internet

She had beauty and brains.

She was one of the most beautiful and admired actresses of her era. But Hedy Lamarr had a secret. She moonlighted as an inventor, creating and patenting a form of frequency hopping that is still used in modern technology. In fact, the Wi-Fi we all depend on today can be traced back to Lamarr’s genius. So why is much of her scientific prowess shrouded in mystery. That may have been by her own choosing.

A new documentary co-produced by Susan Sarandon sheds some light on Lamarr’s inventions and why she preferred to do her work quietly.

According to Vanity Fair, “Despite the bountiful evidence, there were many who didn’t know about Lamarr’s brilliant gift—partially because she didn’t talk much about it. In her ghostwritten autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, there’s no mention of her desire to invent; instead, the book is a surprisingly lurid rehashing of her sexual exploits, her marriages, and her drug use, Dean says, which stands completely at odds with the biography of Lamarr later written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes. His book, Hedy’s Folly, homes in on her work in frequency hopping with offbeat composer George Antheil, an invention born out of Lamarr’s desire to help the military come up with a secure communication system during the war.”

You can read more about Lamarr’s fascinating story here.

Madeline Brand of KCRW’s Press Play also did a terrific on-air segment you can listen to here.