Few people can hope to have as much impact as Hedy Lamarr. A star of the silver screen, she also invented the technology that would eventually lead to such tools as Bluetooth communication. The Lamarr exhibition at Vienna’s Jewish Museum shines a light on this multifaceted personality.
- Exhibition examines Lamarr’s biography with a focus on her time in Vienna and Berlin
- Runs Nov 27 – May 10, 2020
- Accessible with a normal entrance ticket* or a Vienna Pass
- All display information in German and English
- See also: Jewish Museum visitor & tickets info
Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof cemetery is full of famous graves, not least those of Beethoven and Strauss Jnr. Just a few metres from those legendary composers lies the grave of one Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (1914-2000), better known to you and me as Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood diva and inventor extraordinaire.
Few people know that Lamarr was born in Vienna, since she spent most of her acting and personal life in the USA. Star of such classics as 1949’s Oscar-winning Samson and Delilah, Lamarr led a life filled by multiple marriages, celebrity, eccentricity, and…high-tech inventions.
Lamarr’s ideas for frequency hopping in transmission of radio signals helped lay the foundations for various modern communication technologies, not least Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
So while Lamarr never won an Oscar, she did win the equivalent in the inventing world as the first female to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award (in 1997).
As well as touching on the varied nature of Lamarr’s biography, the exhibition at the Jewish Museum focuses on her time in Vienna, where she grew up, and Berlin, where her acting career really began.
Born into a Jewish family, Lamarr’s upbringing clashed with an era of growing antisemitism and a time when appropriate career opportunities for intelligent women were limited. In 1933, she married a Nazi sympathiser from whom she later fled, beginning the sequence of events that would eventually take her to the USA and Hollywood fame.
As soon as I get a chance to spend time in the exhibition, I’ll update this article with my personal highlights.
Dates and tickets
At the time of writing, the museum opens Sunday to Friday, 10am to 6pm (5pm on Fridays), but closes on certain Jewish holidays, of course.
How to get to the Lamarr exhibition
The museum has two exhibition sites and you want the one on Judenplatz, also home to the remains of a synagogue from the early 15th-century (not long after King Harald Bluetooth reigned, as it happens, who gave his name to the technology Lamarr helped create).
For public transport connections, see the main article on the Jewish Museum.
Address: Judenplatz 8, 1010 Vienna