To celebrate Womxn's History Month we thought we’d bring you a series of blog posts acknowledging the ways in which womxn have changed modern life through invention - many of which we now simply take for granted...
What? Wi-Fi and GPS
Who? Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr’s life reads like the plot of a film - which is kind of appropriate, considering that she was an actress. Born in Austria in 1914, Lamarr starred in Gustav Machatý's film Ecstasy, which was notorious for being the first film ever to portray a woman’s face while orgasming. (Lamarr’s facial expression actually resulted from being jabbed with a pin, thanks to an exploitative director and producer).
At 18 she married Friedrich Mandl, a munitions manufacturer who had regular conferences with scientists involved in developing military tech for Germany, a phrase which here means ‘he made guns for Hitler’. Lamarr sat in on these meetings and became fascinated with applied science. However, she was of Hungarian-Jewish descent and did not take kindly to the revelation that her husband was a literal Nazi. Lamarr’s solution? Run away to Hollywood!
There she starred in multiple films, got married six times and was hailed as the world’s most beautiful woman, while also casually revolutionising World War II military technology. At this point, torpedoes were radio-controlled and their signals were susceptible to being tracked and jammed. Using her knowledge of munitions tech, Lamarr developed a signal that could hop between 88 different frequencies rather than using just one - which is used in a modified form in Wi-Fi and GPS to this day.