Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr—”Most Beautiful Woman” by Day—Tech Inventor by Night

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) was most famous for being a film actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She was reportedly such a stunner than she was promoted as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman and according to one viewer, when her face first appeared on the silver screen, “everyone gasped…Lamarr’s beauty literally took one’s breath away.”

It seems strange to feel sorry for a girl for her good looks, but in Hedy’s case, they were a hinderance. She was “a casting challenge”, perhaps too gorgeous to be believed, and she became bored playing the vixen parts that only used her face but not her mind. She’s quoted: “Any girl can be glamorous, all you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

To occupy her mind, she began working on inventions from home. Her most important invention was a system called spread spectrum signal transmission, which is also called frequency hopping. This is now the part of the technology used in our Wi-Fi and cellular phones.

Though the brilliant Hedy’s life was terribly fascinating, she also had a tendency to make regrettable choices, which complicated her personal life as well as her career. But regardless of the drama that surrounded her for her whole life, she was certainly a talented trailblazer, as a woman and as an innovator.

One of my favorite Google Doodles elegantly tells the story of Hedy Lamarr.

For more about Hedy, I also recommend listening to this episode of the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast. (One of my favorite podcast series.)

Artist’s notes: Darker and more dramatic than many of my other paintings, I like this one because to me it captures part of her mystique. I think she had heaps of self confidence. And in photos and film, at least, she could certainly hold her powerful gaze. I imagine she was a strong woman from the time she was a child.—Allison

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