Women Who Rock: Grace Hopper
March is National Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a lady we admire each weekday.
GRACE HOPPER (1906-1992)
Born on Dec. 9, 1906 in New York City, computer scientist Grace Hopper led an extraordinary life. She earned a doctorate in mathematics from Yale in 1934 at a time when it was rare for women to earn such degrees. Hopper then became a professor at Vassar college where she remained until 1943, when she joined the U.S. Navy reserves. Having a passion for both math and computers, Hopper joined Harvard’s Computation Laboratory as a research engineer in 1946. She became only the third person to work on Harvard’s Mark I computer, the first automatic digital computer in America. (The military used the Mark I until 1959 for ballistics calculations.) It was during this time that she coined the term computer “bug,” after a moth caused a giant malfunction in the Mark I’s operation. In 1949, Hopper went to work for Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp., working with a team of scientists to develop the UNIVAC I, the first American commercial mainframe computer. For the next few decades, Grace Hopper worked tirelessly to move computers and computer programming forward, most notably developing testing standards for programming languages such as COBOL and FORTRAN.
Meanwhile, Grace Hopper remained in the Navy. After Hopper’s several decades of service, an act of Congress elevated her to the rank of rear admiral. She was forced to retire in 1986. On Jan. 1, 1992, Hopper died, leaving behind a distinguished legacy still noteworthy today.