Hedy Lamarr paved the way for the working mom, the nude scene, and the cell phone. That's right — the cell phone. Take a look at how an Austrian starlet invented the modern world.

Hedwig Kiesler was born in 1914, and by 1930 had people falling all over her. She was on stage at the theater. She was getting film offers. People stopped talking when she walked into a room. Hedy, made up for lack of opportunities for conversation by taking up all the opportunities that acting offered her. One particular opportunity, the 1933 Austrian film Ecstasy, shocked the world with an early nude scene. And what a scene. This was not Kate Winslet reclining on a couch. This was a completely naked, dripping wet woman sprinting through open fields after her runaway horse. Hedy didn't half-ass it (I'm sorry).


Once she hopped over to America, and signed on MGM studios, Hedy Lamarr was pretty much limited to being the Beautiful Girl with Beautiful Problems. Fans wanted to see her as a fantasy object; either performing as what they wanted or who they wanted to be. She juggled her career with motherhood, but as the constrictions grew, she left Hollywood.

Perhaps it was those restrictions that made Hedy an inventor, or perhaps it was just her intellectual curiosity. Either way, Hedy was inventing things, big and small, right up until she died. There were many utilitarian, small inventions, like a box of tissues that had its own pocket to store used tissues in. And then there was the showstopper: With musician George Antheil, she patented the 'secret communication system' in 1942. The frequency hopping, spread-spectrum invention allowed its users to manipulate radio frequencies. The earliest one used a piano roll to guide the hopping between frequencies. In World War II, it was used to keep torpedoes from being detected or manipulated by enemy forces.

Decades later on, the wide spectrum aspect of the invention formed the basis for the communications boom. Cell phones, Wi-Fi, the modern world as we know it, it all flowed from the original patent that Hedy came up with to fight Nazis.

Via The Wall Street Journal and About.com.