MIA CARNEVALE/THE VARSITY

Hedy Lamarr was an extremely beautiful American-Austrian film actress of the twentieth century. While she lived through both World Wars and starred in a myriad of films, I prefer to remember her as a scientist who left a mark in the field of technology.

During an era when women were not actively involved in science, technology, engineering, or math, Lamarr co-invented a technique that is regularly used as the framework for the vast majority of wireless communication in our present day.

She fled from marriage and political tensions in Austria to the US, immediately becoming a Hollywood sensation.

During the 1940s, Lamarr patented the Secret Communication System, which prevented enemies from blocking radio-controlled missile signals during World War II. It began as a signaling device designed to change radio frequencies and was later developed into an efficient system that stopped enemies from decoding messages. This eventually became a catalyst in the development of technology dedicated to providing security of military and social communications.

Lamarr’s system was crucial in US military attempts to defeat the Nazis. Though she was the first female to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, which is often referred to as the Oscar of invention, her remarkable and impactful innovation went unnoticed by the scientific community for decades.

Nowadays, her technology is incorporated into Bluetooth technology and WiFi, but still, her name is not widely known.

I believe Lamarr and her work should be highlighted and honoured. She should not only be admired for her beauty and talent but also, more importantly, for her intelligence and dedication to science. She is an incredible inspiration because she strived and succeeded during a time when science was dominated by men and when women were seen as inferior in the realm of intellect and education.

Lamarr has inspired me in many ways: to become the best version of myself and to never give up or feel limited by the societal norms and pressures around me.

I learned about Lamarr in high school and was struck by her brilliance. Figures like her are people I wish I had known about during my childhood — they are influential role models who demonstrate that a girl’s appearance does not matter as much as her abilities, intelligence, and achievements.

This article is published as part of a series of profiles in honour of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11.

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