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8 Dazzling Facts About Hedy Lamarr

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Public Domain

You may know Hedy Lamarr, the sultry siren of the silver screen. But have you heard of Hedy Lamarr, inventor, engineer, and "the mother of Wi-Fi"? Allow us to introduce you.

1. SHE WAS A SERIAL—AND STRATEGIC—BRIDE.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, the artist eventually known as Hedy Lamarr married six times between 1933 and 1965. Her last wedding vows were spoken to her own divorce lawyer, though he, too, eventually got the boot. But Lamarr didn't go through all that for nothing. Alongside her first husband, arms dealer and Mussolini sympathizer Friedrich Mandl, Lamarr was privy to the ins and outs of Austrian weapons manufacturing and trade—information she would later offer to the U.S. military during World War II. 

2. THAT MARRIAGE HAD A HOLLYWOOD ENDING…

Believe it or not, Lamarr did not especially enjoy her marriage to a fascist. But she also didn't feel safe simply asking the powerful, controlling man for a divorce. Instead, she resorted to a most theatrical strategy: dressing as her own maid and fleeing to Paris by moonlight.

3. …WHICH BROUGHT HER TO HOLLYWOOD.

Color lobby card showing Hedy Lamarr embracing a smirking Clark Gable.
MGM, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Lamarr had been acting since she was a teenager, but it was a chance encounter with MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer that made her a household name. Lamarr left Europe and moved to California, where Mayer cast her as the vampy love interest opposite superstars like Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, and Clark Gable.

4. THE STARLET LIFE WAS NOT ALL IT WAS CRACKED UP TO BE.

Black and white image of Hedy Lamarr and George Sanders in the film The Strange Woman.
MGM, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Studio executives loved Lamarr for her looks (Mayer regularly billed her as "the most beautiful woman in the world") and her exotic persona. But they didn't seem to care much about letting her act. "Any girl can be glamorous," Lamarr once said. "All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Before long, Lamarr tired of standing still. She got bored. And then, fortunately for us, she started tinkering.

5. SHE HAD A MIND FOR ENGINEERING.

Lamarr became a prolific inventor. She created a fizzing cube that turned water into instant cola. She started sketching blueprints for unheard-of machines. She took up with millionaire aviator Howard Hughes and drafted new fish- and bird-inspired designs for the wings of his airplanes.

6. WE MIGHT NOT HAVE WI-FI WITHOUT HER.

One night while standing over a piano at a party, Lamarr made friends with composer George Antheil. The two discovered they shared a passion for creating and an intense curiosity about how things work. Using Lamarr's knowledge of weapons design and Antheil's of musical instruments, they created what they called a "frequency-hopping system": a device inspired by the roll of a player piano that could allow military torpedoes to sidestep enemy efforts at radio interference. The fundamental structure of this system would go on to inform many of the devices we rely on today, including GPS and wireless internet.

7. THE GOVERNMENT IGNORED HER TALENTS AT FIRST.

Lamarr offered both her invention and her knowledge to aid the U.S. war effort, but was dismissed. Charles F. Kettering of the National Inventors Council told Lamarr she could serve her country better by using her fame and pretty face to sell war bonds. Gamely, she did, raising $25 million (that's about $340 million today) for the military through public appearances. 

Two decades later, the Navy finally caught on to the potential of Lamarr and Antheil's invention and built frequency-hopping technology into the all-important radios used during the Cuban missile crisis. 

8. SHE GOT THE RECOGNITION SHE DESERVED…EVENTUALLY.

Lamarr received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, but it wasn't until 2014—fourteen years after her death—that she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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entertainment
Why Our Brains Love Plot Twists
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Getty Images

From the father-son reveal in The Empire Strikes Back to the shocking realization at the end of The Sixth Sense, everyone loves a good plot twist. It's not the element of surprise that makes them so enjoyable, though. It's largely the set-up, according to cognitive scientist Vera Tobin.

Tobin, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University, writes for The Conversationthat one of the most enjoyable moments of a film or novel comes after the big reveal, when we get to go back and look at the clues we may have missed. "The most satisfying surprises get their power from giving us a fresh, better way of making sense of the material that came before," Tobin writes. "This is another opportunity for stories to turn the curse of knowledge to their advantage."

The curse of knowledge, Tobin explains, refers to a psychological effect in which knowledge affects our perception and "trips us up in a lot of ways." For instance, a puzzle always seems easier than it really is after we've learned how to solve it, and once we know which team won a baseball game, we tend to overestimate how likely that particular outcome was.

Good writers know this intuitively and use it to their advantage to craft narratives that will make audiences want to review key points of the story. The end of The Sixth Sense, for example, replays earlier scenes of the movie to clue viewers in to the fact that Bruce Willis's character has been dead the whole time—a fact which seems all too obvious in hindsight, thanks to the curse of knowledge.

This is also why writers often incorporate red herrings—or false clues—into their works. In light of this evidence, movie spoilers don't seem so terrible after all. According to one study, even when the plot twist is known in advance, viewers still experience suspense. Indeed, several studies have shown that spoilers can even enhance enjoyment because they improve "fluency," or a viewer's ability to process and understand the story.

Still, spoilers are pretty universally hated—the Russo brothers even distributed fake drafts of Avengers: Infinity War to prevent key plot points from being leaked—so it's probably best not to go shouting the end of this summer's big blockbuster before your friends have seen it.

[h/t The Conversation]

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