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women computer science meme

Hedy Lamarr did awesome things, but inventing WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS were not any of them.

Wrong. Hedy Lamarr listed her patents under the name H.K. Markey, and she created the device that is the forebear of modern wireless technology, when she teamed up with composer

George Antheil.

“Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state. She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons… and that she was thinking seriously of quitting MGM and going to Washington DC, to offer her services to the newly established Inventors’ Council.” 

Together, the duo filed a shared patent for an invention that prevented signals transmitted over radio from being intercepted by the enemy. They did this with a clever modification: instead of broadcasting over a single channel, messages would jump seemingly at random across many channels. This was called “frequency hopping.” Their patent used 88 channels, a nod to the number of keys on the piano. If both the sender and receiver knew in advance the channels that would be used, the message would be easily decoded. But to a spy without the correct combination, the message would be indecipherable.   

Patent No 2,292,387 was awarded in August of 1942. Lamarr is listed as “H.K. Markey,” the name she assumed in her second marriage. The idea wasn’t adopted at the time, in part due to skepticism that an actress could contribute to technology When Lamarr and Antheil approached the National Inventors’ Council to present their device, they were rebuffed. The council suspected it would be too cumbersome to implement the communication system in military crafts. 

She was also rebuffed in her direct attempts to help the war effort. When she offered her expertise in wartime technology to the council, she was denied. They suggested that the “most beautiful woman in films” could make a bigger difference by acting as a spokeswoman for war bonds. Today, the invention is fundamental to wi-fi, bluetooth technology, and other wireless networks.

(Source: Massive Science)

Five minutes on Google will get you reams of information on Hedy’s inventions and her knowledge of science and mathematics, and how she was one of the frontrunners of technological progress during the war. 

She wasn’t just a pretty face. So don’t erase or downplay her accomplishments; her invention is the reason you can dismiss her influence on a worldwide internet. She completely deserves recognition for her skills and what she created… and very few women do receive credit for their progress in the sciences, with their male colleagues taking all the credit.

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