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Google doodle celebrates Hedy Lamarr, screen siren and Wi-Fi pioneer

9

November

It's worth Googling anything today, if only to see the search site's animated Google Doodle honoring one of Hollywood's most beautiful and brainiest stars.

Today would be the 101st birthday of actress Hedy Lamarr, whose place in film history was secured in 1933, in the Czech romantic drama Ecstasy.

But everyone today is also reminded how a World War II pin-up girl laid the groundwork for today's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cell phone technology.

Ecstasy featured a scene of Lamarr (billed then as Hedy Kiesler) feigning an orgasm, and brief flashes of her skinny-dipping and running naked through woods.

Lamarr's notoriety carried her to Hollywood, where she soon starred alongside some the era's top leading men including Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and James Stewart, in a career lasting until 1958.

All the while, Lamarr was bored with acting and celebrity: "Any girl can be glamorous," she once said. "All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Lamarr was indeed glamorous but certainly not stupid. Since the early days of World War II she was an inventor, among other things designing a better traffic light and a tablet that would dissolve to make a carbonated drink.

Her most famous invention - and the focus of Google's tribute - is the frequency-hopping spread-spectrum design to prevent the U.S. Navy's radio-controlled torpedoes from being jammed by enemy interference. Lamarr shared the credit and patent with George Anthiel, although the Navy didn't adopt the technology until 1962 during the Cuban blockade.

Their frequency-hopping idea became the foundation of modern communication systems millions use daily.

Lamarr and Anthiel finally earned acclaim for their invention in the 1990's, and were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. Lamarr, 85, died of heart failure in 2000 at her home in Casselberry, near Orlando.

One final note: Modern audiences may also know Lamarr from the character "Hedley Lamarr" played by Harvey Korman in Mel Brooks' classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles. Lamarr sued the production for using her name without authorization, a case settled out of court. Brooks turned the situation into a joke for his movie.

[Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2015 11:01am]

    

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