Hedy Lamarr: Movie star, inventor of WiFi

So Hedy did precisely that, using her celebrity to raise millions in war bonds - dismissed again for her brains in favor of her beauty.

As time went on, she tried television, but it never fit, and her star slowly faded.

But she watched in silence as other "frequency hopping" inventors took the technology to heights Hedy never could have imagined.

"Today, frequency hopping is used with the wireless phones that we have in our homes, GPS, most military communication systems - it's very widely used," said Rhodes.

But it was those building on her idea who got the credit. Hedy had quietly signed her patent over to the Navy, and left it at that. She gave the technology away, and never made a dime off of it.

"It seemed to her the very least they could do was pat her on the head and give her some acknowledgement," said Rhodes.

Finally, more than 50 years after her original patent, Hedy did FINALLY get some acknowledgment - even a few awards - but she didn't show up to accept them. By then, botched plastic surgery has left her mostly a recluse.

"She lost her looks, she lost her confidence, she lost her value. She lost her worth," said Loder.

Hedy died alone in Florida at the age of 86. Her obituaries began with what everyone already knew, her beauty, and made only glancing references to the invention she had hoped would prove her mind was beautiful, too.

  • "Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World" by Richard Rhodes (Random House)
  • hedylamarr.com (Official site)
  • Hedy Lamarr Foundation