GRACE HOPPER

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper - taken in part from the American Computer & Robotics Museum in Bozeman, Montana. 

Grace Hopper was a pioneer in the field of computer science and one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, developing the first compiler for a computer programming language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. 

She received her B.A. in mathematics and physics from Vassar, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1928, and went on to complete her M.A. and Ph.D. at Yale. After teaching math at Vassar from 1931-1941, she won a faculty fellowship for study at New York University’s Courant Institute for Mathematics. 


In 1943, as a lieutenant in the Navy, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation project at Harvard University. It was here that she worked on pre-cursors of modern computers, the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III. One of the first three coders, she wrote the proper use manual for the MARK I. One day in 1945, a moth was found stuck in one of the computer relays. After removing it, she taped it into her notebook with the note “First actual case of a bug being found,” subsequently coining the term “debugging the computer.”


In 1953, she proposed the idea of writing programs in words, rather than symbols, but was told her idea would never work. Nevertheless, she continues working on an English-language compiler and in 1956 her team was running FLOW-MATIC, the first programming language to use word commands instead of mathematical symbols. She also demonstrated how programs could be written in words-based languages other than English. Hopper believed that her work would allow more people to be comfortable using computers. In a 1980 interview she said “What I was after in beginning English language programming was to bring another whole group of people able to use the computer easily… I kept calling for more user friendly languages. Most of the stuff we get from… computer science people, is in no way adapted to people. 


Hopper is widely credited for her contributions to COBOL, which became the most extensively used computer language in the world by the 1970s. Her work embodied or foreshadowed enormous numerous developments that now define digital computing: subroutines, formula translation, relative addressing, the linking loader, code optimization, and symbolic manipulation.


Although she made such significant contributions to the world of computer science, she was most proud of her service to her country. Nicknamed “Amazing Grace,” she remained on active duty for 19 years. She retired at the age of 79 - the oldest serving officer in the US armed forces. That same year, she went to work as a senior consultant in public relations a the Digital Equipment Corporation, where she worked for the rest of her life. 


She was the first woman to receive the nation’s highest technology award - the National Medal of Technology - as an individual, she was the first woman and the first American to become a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, and she received over forty honorary degrees in her lifetime.


She was buried with full Naval honors at Arlington National cemetery on January 7th, 1992 at the age of 85. In 1996, the US Navy launched the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer - in her honor, and in 2016 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her “lifelong leadership role in the field of computer science.”


Clearly, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was a Boss Ass Bitch. 


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