Every time you use GPS, WiFi or Bluetooth technologies, you should think about film actress Hedy Lamarr.
While Lamarr was among the best-known movie stars of the 1940s and 1950s, she also patented a secret communication system that is the predecessor to Bluetooth.
For her contributions, Lamarr was one of eight inductees in the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame at a Friday night ceremony in Tampa. (See the gallery below to learn more about all the inductees.)
Lamarr’s son, Anthony Loder, an actor and producer, accepted the honor on behalf of Lamarr, who died in 2000 in her home in Orlando.
He talked with the St. Pete Catalyst about his mother just before the awards ceremony.
“She was extremely quick in finding solutions or improvements or changes or additions. About the time World War II was going on, she came up with this idea of frequency hopping, a secret communication system where frequencies were chopped up and used in synchronization with each other where no other radio can interfere with the transmission or reception going on,” Loder said.
The technology was intended to help radio-guided torpedoes elude detection.
Lamarr showed Loder the patent one day when the two of them were sitting in the attic of their home in Texas.
“Just the two of us were sitting on a four-by-eight sheet of plywood with a bulb hanging overhead with two-by-four rafters, and she’s sitting there going through these storage boxes she had put there when she married [bandleader] Teddy Stauffer and moved to Mexico. Now she was unpacking them, going through them in Texas, married to Howard [Lee, a Texas oil magnate]. She pulled out a patent.
‘I invented something. It’s a secret communication system.’
‘You did that mom? You thought of this?’
‘Yes. I gave it to the Navy and then I told my friend Howard Hughes about bending the wings backwards on his airplanes to go faster.’
“She told me that up there. That was my favorite part of my mother,” Loder said.
Lamarr’s invention was the foundation for a multitude of communication technologies, including fax machines, top-secret military and diplomatic communications, GPS, internet, WiFi, satellite communication systems, and wireless communication, spawning significant advances in cyber security, according to her bio in the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.
Loder has been telling the story of Lamarr’s invention for about 40 years, and it’s been featured in two documentaries: Calling Hedy Lamarr and Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, featured on Netflix.
In November, the Jewish Museum Vienna will unveil an exhibit about Lamarr entitled “Lady Bluetooth.”
“We all should be thinking of her every now and then and say thanks Hedy, because without her idea we wouldn’t have Bluetooth,” Loder said.
The Florida Inventors Hall of Fame is located at the USF Research Park at the University of South Florida Tampa campus. It’s led by an advisory board chaired by Paul Sanberg, senior vice president for Research, Innovation and Knowledge Enterprise at USF.
Click through the gallery to learn more about the 2019 inductees in the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.