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Actress Hedy Lamarr, Inventor: A Public Image Reframed



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Hedy Lamarr, billed as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” was a prominent American movie star in the 1940s and 50s. She was part of the “studio system” of Hollywood, where the early movie studios controlled actors’ salaries and hours, which films they acted in, their publicity and public-facing personas, including through contractual morality clauses regarding their personal lives. Lamarr’s beauty was her defining characteristic in Hollywood marketing schemes, but she was more than a beautiful face. She was an inventor. Today, Hedy Lamarr is credited with inventing “frequency hopping,” a foundational concept in modern digital communications which includes cellular, satellite, secure Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signal processing. In short, she was a pioneer in the development of a technology that has changed the world. This is a remarkable innovation from someone dismissed at the time for being so beautiful that she could not possibly have a brain. Due to her beauty, Lamarr seldom received credit for having any kind of skill, including within the profession of acting. Although there was very little contemporary news coverage of her invention, forty-years later (in the 1980s), the story of Lamarr as inventor began to spread via internet newsgroups, completely reframing frequency hopping as a brilliant scientific invention by a woman never given proper credit for her contributions and in lament of her lost potential. Only with the advent of the internet (which evolved from her patent) as the primary vehicle for her story, did this shift in Lamarr’s public image emerge. In my thesis, I will use critical feminist discourse analysis to unpack the story of Actress Hedy Lamarr, Inventor, to illuminate the prevailing intersectional discourses and structural barriers impacting women and other minoritized groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and other male-dominated professional fields, to the present day.



Women in STEM, Women in Science, Women in Engineering, Women Inventors, gender



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity


Women's and Gender Studies


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