Meet the Mother of WiFi: Hedy Lamarr

Black & White Portrait

Heidi Cormack, Chief Marketing Officer

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, NETGEAR salutes the visionary and innovative polymath Hedy Lamarr, whose frequency hopping invention paved the way for our industry, and who is emblematic of the importance of diversity and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education in high tech.

Frequency Hopping Named: "An Extraordinary New Communication System"

Most people know Hedy Lamarr as a top actress during Hollywood’s golden era. She is less well known as a brilliant inventor. One of her inventions, with composer George Antheil, was a forerunner to today’s WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS technologies, and has led many to dub Lamarr the mother of WiFi.

The National Women’s History Museum describes their invention as “an extraordinary new communication system used with the intention of guiding torpedoes to their targets in war. The system involved the use of ‘frequency hopping’ amongst radio waves, with both transmitter and receiver hopping to new frequencies together. Doing so prevented the interception of the radio waves, thereby allowing the torpedo to find its intended target.”

Early Life

Born in Austria in 1914, Hedy Lamarr displayed an innate curiosity and intelligence from a young age. Her passion for science and technology would eventually intertwine with her illustrious acting career, leading to groundbreaking discoveries. Despite facing numerous obstacles as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Lamarr’s innovative spirit prevailed, leaving an indelible mark on the world of technology.

Hedy Lamarr's Inventions

One of Lamarr’s most remarkable inventions was a communication system developed alongside composer George Antheil. Their invention aimed to guide torpedoes during warfare by utilizing “frequency hopping” between radio waves. This ingenious technique involved both the transmitter and receiver rapidly switching frequencies, preventing the interception of signals and enabling the torpedo to reach its intended target undetected. Although the invention was initially deemed too advanced for implementation during World War II, its concepts laid the groundwork for modern wireless technologies.

Lamarr’s frequency hopping invention, patented in 1942, remained relatively unknown until the 1960s when it gained recognition for its significant contributions to the field of telecommunications. Fast forward to the present day, and we can see the impact of Lamarr’s work in the ubiquitous presence of WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS technologies in our daily lives. Lamarr’s inventive genius truly makes her the “mother of WiFi.”

Since Lamarr’s invention, WiFi technology has grown in leaps and bounds, there is now WiFi Mesh Technology and WiFi versions have kept evolving, like WiFi 7, which has been recently released.
Hedy Lamarr portrait

NETGEAR's Commitment to Diversity

At NETGEAR, we not only recognize the immense contributions of Hedy Lamarr but also emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry. With 38 percent of our global workforce identifying as female, exceeding the tech industry average of 33%, we are committed to fostering an environment that embraces different perspectives and talents. We firmly believe that diversity drives innovation, and we strive to empower individuals from all backgrounds to shape the future of technology.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and honor Hedy Lamarr’s legacy, NETGEAR is renewing its commitment to further increase diversity within our organization. Through initiatives promoting STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics), we aim to inspire and empower the next generation of innovators, regardless of their gender or background. To learn more about NETGEAR’s commitment to diversity, see our Environmental, Social & Governance website.