When the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, it faced innumerable problems, and among those problems, there happened to be one involving torpedoes. You see, a warship, once it launches a torpedo, has to communicate with it, to guide it to its target. At the beginning of WWII British warships communicated with torpedoes on a single frequency, a frequency that the Germans could easily jam. And that meant that German U-boats had virtually complete control over the Atlantic Ocean. There were lots of clever people trying to solve this problem, and one of them, quite surprisingly, was Hedy Lamarr. Yes, that Hedy Lamarr! She was a mega superstar, and considered "the most beautiful woman in the world." She also happened to be Jewish and an Austrian citizen, having moved to Hollywood in 1938.
Lamarr began to consider the problem after a Nazi U-boat sank a cruise ship in 1940, a cruise ship evacuating 90 British school children to Canada. Seventy-seven of the children drowned in the north Atlantic and Lamarr, outraged, began to consider how a torpedo could successfully attack a U-boat. She came up with the idea of a frequency-hopping signal that could not be jammed and took her idea to the US Navy. Hedy Lamarr, being who she was, was not taken seriously, but she was asked instead to use her beauty and fame to sell war bonds. Although not a US citizen, she worked tirelessly and raised a sum that in today’s dollars would be $343 million! An amazing contribution indeed!
But what of her frequency-hopping idea? Well it turns out that the principles of her idea became the foundation for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that we use today! So the next time you pick up your phone, give a thought to Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful woman in the world, a woman who changed the course of history in more ways than one!