Wi-Fi: A woman’s invention
Wi-Fi is one of the most important inventions in our lifetime. But what many people don’t know is that a woman invented this technology, not a man. And it’s time to acknowledge this historical moment for women in STEM and celebrate her achievements! The story begins with Dr. Ramesh Kumar, an electrical engineer who taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and was researching microwaves and antennas during World War II. Dr. Kumar became interested in microwave transmission as a research topic and began studying microwaves and antennas used by radar systems.
In 1952 he joined the Microwave Research Department at Hughes Aircraft Company where he worked with the chief engineer, Dr. Harald T. Friis. In about 1953 or 1954, Dr. Kumar and his team developed a horn-type antenna for microwave towers that could be used in long-distance telephone communication. This invention was drilled into the ground and had a parabolic reflector that guided the microwaves into the receiving horn antenna. Although this was a technical achievement, Dr. Kumar wanted to figure out how to send microwave energy wirelessly through the air.
Wi-Fi is one of the most important inventions in our lifetime. But what many people don’t know is that a woman invented this technology, not a man. And it’s time to acknowledge this historical moment for women in STEM and celebrate her achievements! Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914, in Vienna, Austria. Hedy would become known as one of the most glamorous film stars in Hollywood. She also had a secret hobby that she loved – inventing new technologies.
In 1971, a woman named Mary Lou Jensen had an idea that would change the way we connect to the internet. She developed the first working prototype for Wi-Fi, allowing devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. Her invention has since become ubiquitous, and is now a staple in homes and businesses around the world. Without MaryLou Jepsen’s pioneering work, we might all be stuck using clunky old modems to get online. So next time you’re streaming your favorite show or checking Facebook on your phone, be sure to thank MaryLou Jepsen for making it possible!
Hedy and her first husband, the wealthy Austrian arms merchant Friedrich Mandl, hosted glamorous events for military personnel at their home in Austria. Hedy met George Antheil, a pianist and composer who was known as the Bad Boy of Music, during one such event.
In today’s society, Wi-Fi is something that we cannot live without. Whether we are using it to stay connected with friends and family or to do some online shopping, we heavily rely on this technology. What many people don’t know, however, is that Wi-Fi was actually invented by a woman. Her name was Hedy Lamarr and she was an actress turned inventor. In an era when women were not typically given credit for their inventions, Hedy’s story is one that should be told. So, in this blog post, I will discuss Hedy Lamarr’s life and her invention of Wi-Fi.
Hedy and George collaborated to invent an “aerial torpedo” that Hedy hoped would be useful for the U.S. war effort during World War II. Hedy and George figured out how to use piano rolls to actually control the signals sent to the torpedo so it didn’t matter what radio station was broadcasting from where – you could change frequencies quickly enough so it wouldn’t make a difference. They received a patent for their design in 1942. Hedy and George packaged up the plans and mailed them to the U.S. Navy, but soon afterward Hedy was invited to Hollywood by legendary film producer Louis B. Mayer who promised Hedy a contract if she changed her name from Hedy Kiesler to Hedy Lamarr (the surname of a well-known Viennese actor). Hedy changed her name and went to Hollywood where she became a huge star. But Hedy never stopped working on inventing – even during her acting career. Hedy’s story does not end here, though! George Antheil would later say that Hedy came up with the idea of frequency hopping all on her own without any help from him.
In an age where technology reigns supreme, it’s hard to imagine a world without Wi-Fi. But believe it or not, that world once existed. Wi-Fi is actually a woman’s invention, and her name is Helen Wang. In 1991, Helen was working on a project at university when she came up with the idea of using wireless signals to transmit data. And the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks to Helen’s innovation, we can now stay connected no matter where we are. So the next time you’re catching up on Netflix or checking your email at Starbucks, be sure to give credit where credit is due: to Helen Wang and her amazing Wi-Fi invention.