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Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day: Hedy Lamarr

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day: Hedy Lamarr

478px-Hedy_Lamarr-1942

Connecting to the wifi network in a cafe wouldn’t immediately bring to mind a gorgeous film star of the 1930s and 40s, but it should. Hedy Lamarr was both a famous actor and the inventor of ‘frequency hopping’ (together with composer George Antheil) which forms the basis for wireless communication today.

Her achievement was recognised with a Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997. EFF Staff Counsel Mike Godwin said at the time: ‘The special award for Lamarr and Antheil is remarkable for other reasons besides its recognition of a woman whose contributions were thought to be solely in the field of entertainment.’ Partly this is because Lamarr and Antheil had hoped that the military applications of their invention would play a role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. ‘Ironically, this tool they developed to defend democracy half a century ago promises to extend democracy in the 21st century.’

You can read about her achievements in graphic novel form, or in good old wikipedia. Or you could frame a photo of her and keep it on your mantle, which I did for years.

 

A celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and maths, Ada Lovelace Day aims to highlight female role models in STEM fields. It’s also a way to help journalists and conference organisers find women in these fields to quote and invite. Read more about what’s going on in the UK over on the Guardian. This is my small contribution.

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