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Why Germany's Inventors' Day honors a Hollywood diva

Jan Tomes
November 9, 2017

What does actress Hedy Lamarr have to do with Inventors' Day? Find out here, and celebrate the day by discovering 10 commonplace things that were invented in Germany.

Actress Hedy Lamarr
Image: picture alliance/Keystone

The coffee filter, the electric drill or even the hole punch — we take all these things for granted, yet we should not forget that even the most everyday items were once just foolish ideas of genius minds.

Inventors' Day is celebrated on November 9 in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (different countries recognize different dates). Initiated by Berlin inventor and entrepreneur Gerhard Muthenthaler, it was first held in 2006.

Read more: 5 inventions you never would have thought are German

Hollywood actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr
More than just a Hollywood diva: inventor Hedy Lamarr Image: picture alliance/Keystone

Hedy Lamarr: From Hollywood studios to laboratories

The date of November 9 was not chosen randomly, as it honors the birth of Hollywood diva and inventor Hedy Lamarr. 

Born as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, in former Austria-Hungary, in 1914, she was considered one of the most beautiful women of the silver screen — and she was just as intelligent and determined to realize her ideas.

She was never formally trained or educated in sciences, and her interest in technology was first dismissed as "tinkering." She however started dating American film and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes, who supported her by assigning a whole team of scientists to help her in her efforts. 

Read more: When science fiction becomes reality

During the Second World War, after having learned that the navigation system of radio-controlled torpedoes can be easily jammed and set off course, she came up with the idea of creating a frequency-hopping signal that couldn't be jammed or tracked. Along with composer George Antheil, she developed a device that was patented in the US in 1942.

Nonetheless, due to technical difficulties, her invention was not implemented by the US Navy until 1962.

Her idea eventually led to developing technologies such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi that are crucial for the proper function of today's society.



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