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Google Doodle celebrates Hedy Lamarr's scientific legacy

Hedy Lamarr was more than just a 1940s Hollywood movie star. She was also an inventor who helped developed technologies that made Wi-Fi possible today.

Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr was inspired to try to help the Allied forces win World War II.
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Google Doodle on Monday is celebrating the 101st birthday of Vienna-born actress Hedy Lamarr, who won over hearts on the big screen in the 1940s in such hits as "I Take This Woman" with Spencer Tracy and "Come Live with Me" with Jimmy Stewart.

Her biggest, yet relatively unknown achievement though had more to do with wanting to help the Allied forces win World War II.

Lamarr became knowledgeable about torpedos during her first marriage to a munitions manufacturer in Europe during the 1930s. Later, during the war, she wanted to prevent remote-controlled torpedoes from being hijacked. Lamarr helped develop a version of so-called spread-spectrum communication, which would become the starting point for such technologies as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that we use today.

She worked alongside composer and inventor George Antheil to perfect a method for quickly switching among random synchronized frequencies, known as frequency hopping. In 1942, their "Secret Communication System" was granted US Patent No. 2,292,387 but was never used by the military.

It wasn't until the 1950s that Lamarr and Antheil's method was used when private companies were developing wireless technology.

Lamarr died in 2000 at the age of 85.

In Monday's Google Doodle animation that honors Lamarr, we see her public life in front of the camera, but her secret life as an inventor gets the real salute, complete with music by composer Adam Ever-Hadani.