• Sheila Sousa

Hedy Lamarr

Person of the month

Born in 1914, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler later known as Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian born American actress with a career spanning 28 years where she appeared in 30 films starring opposite some of the greatest names of the time. Her greatest success was playing Delilah in the 1949 “Sampson and Delilah” film – though some of us are probably too young to remember.

Despite her success as an actress, the most inspiring fact about Hedy was her mind and the greatest legacy she left behind still impacts our lives today.

In 1941, during WWII, Hedy and her friend, composer George Antheil filed for the patent of a radio guidance system using frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology for use by the Allied forces. This was aimed to protect radio communications as they would ‘hop’ from one frequency to another, so that Allied torpedoes could not be detected by the Nazis. If the technology sounds familiar, is because it is. This was the precursor to secure Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth which we all use and can’t live without.

What is most surprising (or perhaps depressingly not) is that she didn’t receive the notoriety and compensation she deserved for her ideas, to this day. For Hedy, inventions came naturally, and she believed people’s brains were far more interesting than their look. Isn’t that revolutionary idea?!

During her life Hedy was known for her beauty and her acting and never recognised as the great mind she was. She lived in increasingly seclusion and towards the end of her life she communicated only by telephone.

Hedy is an example to us all to follow our dreams even when the world does not think us capable or recognise us for the achievements we reach. She was a scientist at heart, and thanks to her persistence we now have technologies that help with our everyday life. She is also a lesson for us to be more kind to each other, and supportive of other’s ideas by giving recognition when is due.

So, my question to you is: what are you passionate about? What truly sets your heart racing? If you have that passion, follow it, nurture it, develop it. Don’t settle into a role, or life that was designed for you, or that others think will suit you better. Follow your dreams! And the next time you doubt yourself, or feel unrecognised consider this: if Hedy had not pursued her scientific calling would you still be using paper maps to get to a new location (or within your own city if you are like me)? Would you still be using internet cafes if your mobile had no coverage or connect to a cable in a hotel if you needed to use your computer? Still use cables to listen to connect our phones or music devices to speakers?

Like Hedy, there are many uncelebrated inventors, scientists, engineers, authors, etc. The movie Hidden Figures comes to mind. But it is thanks to them that we live in the world we mostly love today. So, trust your process and yourself because what you do today could change the world tomorrow.

Sources - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr#Later_years


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