Computer Scientist: Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper was a computer programmer who pioneered the development of the compiler, which paved the way for her creation of the COBOL computer programming language. Hopper was also a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. She was born in 1906 in New York City and died in 1992. In 2016, President Barack Obama posthumously honored Hopper with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Hopper's Early Life
Grace Brewster Murray was born on Dec. 9, 1906. She attended Vassar College, studying math and physics. She graduated from Vassar in 1928 and then attended Yale University, where she earned a master's degree in mathematics. In 1930, she married Vincent Foster Hopper. One year later, Grace Hopper started teaching at Vassar while also attending Yale to work toward her Ph.D. in mathematics. She earned this degree in 1934.
World War II
Hopper continued to teach as an associate professor at Vassar until she joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943. Hopper chose the Navy to follow in her grandfather's footsteps. In 1944, she was commissioned as a lieutenant. With her strong mathematical background, Hopper began working for the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University. As a part of this assignment, she learned how to program the Mark I computer.
Working With Computers
After World War II ended, Hopper continued to serve as a reserve officer in the Navy. She was also a research fellow at Harvard, which involved working with the Mark II and Mark III computers. During this time, a moth caused a short in the Mark II computer; Hopper discovered the problem and recorded it in her logbook, listing it as the "first actual case of [a] bug being found." This helped to popularize the term "computer bug."
Hopper moved to the private sector in 1949, first working with the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and later with Remington Rand. Hopper and her team created the first compiler for computer languages in 1952. A compiler translates instructions written in English into language that computers can understand. Her work then led to the development of COBOL, also known as Common Business Oriented Language.
Returning to the Navy
Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966. When she was 60 years old, she was recalled to active duty to work on a project that involved standardizing communication between different computer languages; she continued in the Navy for 19 years. When she finally retired in 1986, she was 79 years old. She had attained the rank of rear admiral, and she was the oldest officer in the service.
Hopper always believed she would be bored in retirement if she didn't continue to work, so she worked for several more years in the computer industry. In 1991, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the first individual female recipient to receive this honor. On Jan. 1, 1992, Hopper died at age 85 in Arlington, Virginia. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
The guided missile destroyer USS Hopper was named in her honor by the Navy; it was commissioned in San Francisco in 1997. The University of Missouri honored Hopper by adding a computer museum in her name on its campus. This museum is commonly referred to as "Grace's Place," and it has early computers and components on display. Hopper's legacy also includes the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, which is held to encourage women to be involved in the world of computing. In addition, the Association for Computing Machinery bestows the Grace Murray Hopper Award to recipients. On her birthday in 2013, Google paid tribute to her with a Google Doodle. And in 2017, Yale named one of its residential colleges in her honor.
- Grace Murray Hopper (1906-92): A Legacy of Innovation and Service: Hopper was a trailblazer in the field of computing.
- Grace Murray Hopper: Even as a young child, Hopper was curious and showed an interest in gadgets.
- Achievements of Grace Murray Hopper: Hopper's mathematics background positioned her to work successfully in the computer field.
- Grace Hopper: The Navy and Computers: It was during Hopper's naval assignment at Harvard University that she first began working on computers.
- Grace Hopper: Computing Pioneer: Hopper's programming work on the Mark I computer involved finding ways to code instructions to make computer hardware perform operations.
- Grace Murray Hopper: Hopper told stories about being "scared to death" by the first massive computers she saw.
- Admiral Grace Murray Hopper: Hopper paved the way for other women to work in computer science.
- Brief Biography of Grace Murray Hopper: Hopper's ability to think unconventionally enabled her to make huge strides in the field of computing.
- Who Was Grace Murray Hopper? Hopper was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
- The Contributions of Grace Murray Hopper: Hopper's teaching career included posts at five different universities.
- Grace Hopper and the Marvelous Machine: Lessons for Modern Technical Communicators from the Mark I ASCC Manual: Hopper's technical writing about computers has been an important contribution to software documentation.
- Five Fast Facts About Technologist Grace Hopper: Hopper was an educator, a scientist, and an inventor.
- Grace Brewster Murray Hopper: Hopper is known as the "first lady of software."
- Women in History: The IT Legacy of Grace Hopper: Hopper's accomplishments continue to be relevant even today.
- Honoring Grace Hopper: Hopper was one of the longest-serving Navy officers in U.S. history.
- Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace: Pioneers in Tech: Some called Hopper the "queen of software" due to her work at Harvard on the Mark I computer.
- Early Programmer: Historical archives document Hopper's work in computing.
- Grace Hopper: Hopper was said to have dismantled household items when she was a child so she could put them back together again.
- Admiral "Amazing Grace" Hopper: Hopper believed that computer programming languages should be as easy to understand as English.
- Grace Murray Hopper: During the 1950s, Hopper published academic papers on both software and programming languages.