New Bedford Show Explains How Actress Hedy Lamarr Helped Invent WiFi
Heather Massie is escorting the spirit of Hedy Lamarr, actress and scientist, to New Bedford on November 1.
"She was so beautiful that people became mesmerized by her looks and didn't recognize her intellect," said Massie, an internationally-known actress herself.
Massie brings Lamarr to life in "Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr," which will be part of the Zeiterion's Stage Door Live series.
In addition to making major movies in Hollywood, Lamarr was a scientist who co-discovered the technology that would form the basis for today's WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth systems – but never received credit for any of it.
"When Hedy and her co-inventor, George Antheil, gave their patent to the U.S. Navy in 1942, it was marked 'Top Secret,' and the Navy just shelved it," Massie said. "The first time Lamarr was acknowledged for it was 1997 – 55 years later – when the Electronic Frontier Foundation contacted her, at 83, to receive the Pioneer Award, and she also was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame."
Lamarr's invention helped the Allies win WWII.
"Her brilliant idea was called frequency hopping: a way of jumping around on radio frequencies in order to avoid a third party jamming your signal," Massie said. "It was used as a secret wartime communication system that could keep the enemy from interfering with a ship's torpedoes."
Plays and movies teach us all sorts of things. One of the biggest benefits for attending the show is that you learn something new.
"Who'd think, someone so unexpected as a glamorous Hollywood star was able to create paramount technology?" Massie said. "And along the way you get to see Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis and other Hollywood stars from beloved movies – but the most important relationship in the play is Hedy's connection with the audience."
Massie is working on having a trilogy of shows on women and science, including astronaut Sally Ride and primatologist Jane Goodall. Before studying theater arts, Massie majored in astrophysics.
"The mission of my work is inspire audiences, especially to encourage young women in science and technology, and to establish Hedy Lamarr as a role model for intelligence, inginuity and inventions," she said.
"Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr" will be performed Tuesday, November 1 at 7 p.m., at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center. A celebration of local young inventors takes place at the pre-show Science Fair at 6 p.m.