- Early Life of Grace Hopper:
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was born in New York City in 1906. She was born Grace Brewster Murray. She was the oldest of three children. In 1930, she married Vincent Foster Hopper and took his last name. Vincent died in WWII, but she kept his last name. They had no children and she never remarried.
- Educating Dr. Hopper:
Grace graduated from Vassar College in 1928, where she studied Mathematics and Physics. She earned her Master’s Degree in Mathematics at Yale University in 1930. She earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics at Yale University in 1934. While earning her Ph.D., she was an associate professor at Vassar College.
- Military Life:
In 1943, during WWII, Grace Hopper joined the United States Naval Reserve. In 1944, she became a Lieutenant in the Navy. She was assigned to Harvard University at the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project, where she began programming and exploring the Mark I computer. After the war, Grace worked as a Research Fellow at Harvard, programming Mark I, II and Mark III computers.
- “There’s a bug in it.”
While working as a Research Fellow at Harvard, a Mark II computer shorted out by a moth. Despite popular belief, she did not invent the term “computer bug.” However, she popularized the term during this time, when a dead moth was found in the computer wiring.
- Standardizing Computer Languages:
Grace Hopper left the Navy in 1949 and commenced her computer programming work in the private industry. She oversaw programming on the UNIVAC computer. Her team created the first compiler, the predecessor to the Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). (A compiler translates written instructions into code that can be read by other computers.) International standardization of computer languages was largely influenced by Grace Hopper. She would continue the endeavor of standardization throughout her life.
- Grace’s Curious Mind:
When Grace was a little girl, she would disassemble the clocks in her home to see how they worked. Once disassembled, Grace wasn’t able figure out how to reassemble the clocks. By the time her mother had figured out what she was up to, Grace had disassembled 7 clocks in the house. She was always curious about how things worked and loved the challenge of resolving problems and finding solutions. It was this inquisitiveness that drove her to be the successful innovative woman she became.
- Awards and Honors:
Grace Hopper was given numerous awards and honors throughout her life. One of which, was the National Medal of Technology, presented to her in 1991, by President George Bush. She was the first female recipient of the award. She was awarded honorary degrees from thirty universities. In addition to the various awards, buildings have been dedicated to her namesake, including the Grace Murray Hopper Service Center built at NARDAC [Navy Regional Data Automation Center] San Diego. In 1996, the USS Hopper was commissioned. It is nicknamed “Amazing Grace”. It is one of only a few ships named after a woman.
- Leaving Retirement:
Dr. Hopper was called back to the U.S. Navy at the age of 60. She was given the task of further standardizing the language computers communicate with one another and served as rear admiral. She also advocated for redesigning large centralized computer systems, in favor of smaller networked computer systems that could be accessed by various users. She stayed in the U.S. Navy for 19 more years, retiring at the age of 79. She was the oldest serving officer in the service at the time.
- Her Legacy Lives On:
Today, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference is held every year. The technical conference aims to encourage women to follow paths to careers in the computer field. The Grace Murray Hopper award is given every year by the Association for Computer Machinery—it is given to young computer professional that make great strides in the computer programming field. During her life, Grace Hopper strived to stoke the interest of young people to program computers.
- Grace Hopper Remembered:
Dr. Grace Hopper died on January 1, 1992, at the age of 85. She was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors. She is an inspiration to women and scientists everywhere.