Frequency hopping is the technology used today for everything from GPS to protecting nuclear codes. Everything that uses a wireless signal uses frequency hopping to some degree or another. Without the breakthrough, most modern technology would not exist today.
As is the case with many inventions, the breakthrough occurred while fighting a war. Kiesler had been born to Jewish parents in Austria in either 1913 or 1914 and had seen the rise of anti-Semitism, not as some distant observer, but firsthand accounts of the brutality. She despised the Nazis for the suffering they brought wherever they went.
Her father was a prosperous banker in Vienna, which afforded Kiesler with a private tutor from the age of 4. At the age of 10, she could speak 4 languages fluently and already showed an inventive streak that she never lost. Kiesler’s brilliance would not go unnoticed by those with an understanding of engineering, despite never having attended a university to develop the skills as most do. She dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to pursue an acting career.
In 1937, Kiesler left Europe for the United States and moved west when she arrived. She had made California her home and developed a friendship with a well-known composer, George Antheil. Anthiel would be the other name on the patent for frequency hopping.
Anthiel claimed to be of Polish descent, but his family came from Germany. Unlike Kiesler, he was not Jewish. They hated what the Nazis were doing with a passion for different reasons, and both wanted to assist in the war effort to make the Nazis pay for what they had done.
In 1942, they received the patent they hoped would lead to a quicker defeat of Hitler. They came up with a working way to keep Germany from interfering and intercepting radio signals used by the American Navy and every other navy in the world. Radio was still in its infancy at that time and no nation had an effective means of protecting the signals.
When it was offered to the Navy, they were turned down. Some have claimed had it not been for Kiesler being a woman, they would have run with it. The truth has nothing to do with her sex, but the size and weight of the device they were offering. It was too bulky to be used efficiently. The added weight would slow ships down making them more of a target than they already were.
It took another decade before parts were small and light enough to be used effectively. From the moment it became feasible to be used, it altered the course of the world. From military to civilian use, her brilliance took us at least a generational leap forward.
Most people have never heard the name Hedwig Kiesler, since they are far more familiar with her American stage name, Hedy Lamarre. The same Hedy Lamarre whose critics familiar with her work places them in agreement with her fans when they say she was the most beautiful woman to ever appear in film.
Some have claimed she stole the idea of frequency hopping from her first husband, Friedrich Mandl, who was a successful, Jewish arms manufacturer. He converted to Catholicism in order to be able to trade with Nazis and fascists and did have high ranking Italian officials, such as Benito Mussolini in his home. She never converted to Catholicism and remained Jewish throughout her life.
Kiesler did learn a great deal about weapons during her brief marriage, but nothing the Germans, Italians, or any other nation, was working on that type of weapons technology. Had Mandl or some of his guests ever suggested the idea, it would have changed the course of the war in favor of Mussolini’s fascists. Mussolini, unlike Hitler, did not hate Jews any more than he hated any other group. He was equally oppressive to everyone during his brutal dictatorship.
Mandl fled to South America after transferring his holdings in 1937 and continued to manufacture arms. Not once did he produce anything close to frequency hopping, which meant the idea was never discussed in his home. The United States was the first country to use frequency hopping based on Kiesler and Anthiel’s work, which came from the brilliant mind of Kiesler who had brought it up to her friend, Anthiel.
Prior to meeting Anthiel, Kiesler was introduced to Howard Hughes and the two briefly dated. Hughes gave her equipment she could use to invent in her trailer between takes and at her house. It had been made clear that Hughes was searching for a way to make his planes faster and she produced the wing design that helped make it happen.
There is no evidence to support frequency hopping was anything other than the direct creation of her mind. No one, including Howard Hughes was thinking anything along those lines. She was brilliant in her own right.
Even though it would be about a decade before she saw her invention put into action effectively by the US Navy, Kiesler did her part as a Hollywood star with her beauty. She raised 10s of millions of dollars through the selling of war bonds, which was needed to help fight the war. Kiesler could not help fight the war directly, but did a great deal indirectly.
In regard to her beauty, there is something rather fitting about her being believed to be the most beautiful woman to ever be captured on film. It was during a time when eugenics was reaching its horrific conclusion in Nazi controlled Europe and had found a solid following in America decades before Hitler came to power. It was a Jewish woman with brown hair and green eyes who captured the world rather than the Nazi idea of beauty.