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Beautiful Actress, Beautiful Mind, Hot Gadgets


Actress Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria in November of 1913. A young Jew, she grew up during the rise of the Third Reich. Like many Jews living during those times, she became chameleon-like, possessing many names and presenting what personalities were needed and ultimately keeping many secrets, but never quite playing it safe. If Lamarr's life was rendered as a single unfurled tapestry, with each choice, made or fated, woven into it, hers would be unbelievably complex, wild and tangled. For Lamarr, the choices and decisions she made eventually led to the foundation of United States military might, the Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS). This is a constellation of thirty satellites, 12,000 miles above us, each satellite flying by at 7000 miles per hour, circling the earth twice a day each. And to understand how this mad Rutherford-Atom of a system works, it helps to understand the motivations of actress of Lamarr herself.

While still a teenager in 1933, in the Czech film Ecstacy, she became the first major actress to appear nude, as well as the first to apparently orgasm on film. And although accomplished using a special effect trick, sticking herself with a safety pin, it was realistic enough to upset the Pope. In those days proper actresses didn't do these sorts of scenes. So her parents quickly arranged a marriage to a shady arms magnate named Fritz Mandl. He was the first of her six husbands and believe it or not, manufactured shells, grenades and military aircraft for Hitler despite his Jewish family history. Mandl was obsessed with Lamarr and took her everywhere - from socializing with Hitler and Mussolini all the way to his mad-scientist weapons labs. He never let her out of his sight and while some doubted Lamarr's intelligence, she later proved them wrong. Though she was never University trained, she came to understand the workings of guidance systems and anti-ship weaponry and hid this information away like the secret coding system she would eventually co-invent. Understandably, Lamarr hated Hitler and the Nazis, but she really, really, disliked Mandl. She had vowed to do anything in her power to bring down the Nazis and anger Fritz.

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