Grace Hopper


Grace Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American scientist and Commodore (Rear Admiral, Jr.) of the United States Navy. A pioneer in her field, she was one of the first to write programs for the Harvard Mark I computer. She developed the first compiler for a computer programming language and developed the concept of machine-independent programming languages, leading to COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term debugging for computer glitches. Because of her many accomplishments and high rank in the Navy, she is sometimes called “Amazing Grace”, “Amazing Grace” (perhaps an allusion to the Amazing Grace anthem). The USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at the Department of Energy Research and Computing Center (NERSC) are named after her.

Born in New York City. Her birth name was Grace Brewster Murray. Of three children, she was the eldest. As a child, she was curious, a trait that has stayed with her all her life. At the age of seven, she decided to find out how an alarm clock worked. She took apart seven alarm clocks before her mother figured out what was going on; she later had to limit herself to one alarm clock. To prepare for college, she attended Wardlow-Hartridge High School in Plainfield, New Jersey. Her first attempt to attend Vassar College at age 16 was unsuccessful because of her low Latin score. The following year she was able to enter. She graduated from Vassar in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics. In doing so, her success was recognized with an honorary degree from the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Society. She received her master’s degree from Yale University in 1930.

In 1934, she received her Ph.D. in mathematics under the supervision of Oystin Ore. The same year her dissertation “New Types of Irreducibility Criteria” was published. Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1934 and became an adjunct professor in 1941.

She was married to New York University professor Vincent Foster Hopper (1906-1976 She kept her husband’s last name and never remarried.

World War II

In 1943 Hopper took a leave of absence from Vassar and was sworn into the U.S. Navy Reserve like many women who volunteered for WAVES (she was 15 pounds (6.8 kg) short of the lower weight limit of 120 pounds (54 kg). She enlisted in December and attended the Reserve Cadet School at Smith College, Northampton, Mass. Massachusetts. Hopper graduated top of her class and was assigned to the Bureau of Artillery Computing Projects at Harvard University at the rank of junior lieutenant. She did Mark I computer programming under Howard Aiken. Aiken and Hopper co-authored three articles on the Mark I computer, also known as the automatic sequence counting device. Hopper’s request to transfer to the regular navy was not granted due to age (38). She continued to serve in the reserves. Hopper remained at Harvard Computation Lab until 1949, turning down a full professorship at Vassar in favor of a research position at Harvard under contract to the Navy.


In 1949 Hopper joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and as a senior mathematician joined the UNIVAC I development team. In the early 1950s the company was taken over by the Remington Rand Corporation, at which time their team produced the first ever compiler. It was known as “A Compiler,” and its first version was A-0.

In 1952 she had a compiler ready to go:

“They couldn’t believe it,” she said.  – “I had a working compiler, and no one was using it. I was told that the computer could only do arithmetic operations.”

In 1954 she became head of the Automation and Programming Department, and her department produced some of the first compilers, including ARITH-MATIC, MATH-MATIC, and FLOW-MATIC.


In the spring of 1959, a two-day Conference on Data Processing System Languages (CODASYL) brought together computer professionals in business and government service. Hopper was the technical advisor to the committee, and many of her former subordinates were on the interim committee that standardized (defined) the new COBOL language. This new language was an extension of Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC and contained some ideas of COMTRAN, a similar language from IBM. This new language encapsulated Hopper’s idea that it is better to write programs in a language that is closer to English than in a language that is closer to machine code (like assembler). COBOL became the most common language for business applications and remains so today.

From 1967-1977. Hopper ran the Navy Programming Languages Group (Navy’s Office of Information Systems Planning) and was promoted to captain in 1973. She developed validation software for COBOL and its compiler, which was part of the COBOL standardization program.

In the 1970s, Hopper convinced the Department of Defense to replace large centralized systems with a network of small computers located in different locations. Any user of any computer node could access the databases stored on the network:119 It first applied standardization to the testing of computer systems and components, and most importantly, to early programming languages such as FORTRAN and COBOL. Compliance tests of these standards led to significant similarities in the various dialects of these languages among the major computer manufacturers. In the 1980s, these tests were approved by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In late 1966, Hopper retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve with the rank of commander. In August 1967, she was called back to active duty for six months, an assignment that turned into an indefinite contract. Hopper retired again in 1971, but in 1972 she was asked to return to duty again.

In 1973, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. promoted Hopper to the rank of Captain Captain (roughly equivalent to Captain First Rank).

After House of Representatives member Philip Crane saw Grace on the March 1983 edition of 60 Minutes, he sent a joint petition from the House to the president, a petition that led to the elevation of Grace Hopper to the rank of Commodore. In 1985, the rank of Commodore was renamed Rear Admiral Lower Half (no equivalent in the Russian Navy, above Captain 1st Rank, but below Rear Admiral).

On August 14, 1986, Hopper was forced to resign from the Navy again. At a ceremony marking her departure, Hopper was awarded the Medal of Meritorious Service, the highest award of the noncombatant service of the U.S. Department of Defense.

By the time of her retirement, Grace was the oldest officer on active duty in the U.S. Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and her retirement ceremony was held on the oldest active ship in the U.S. Navy, the USS Constitution (188 years, nine months and 23 days).

After retiring, Hopper was hired as a senior consultant at Digital Equipment Corporation, where she worked until her death at age 85 in 1992.

A goodwill ambassador is what you might call her new role. She gave various lectures about the dawn of the computer age, her career, and efforts that computer developers could make life easier for users. Hopper attended most of Digital Equipment’s engineering productions, where audiences often saw her off to a standing ovation. She illustrated many of her lectures with a straight Bell telephone cord, cut to a length of 30 cm to demonstrate the distance that light travels in one nanosecond. The cable was handed to the audience as a visual aid.

Hopper always wore her Navy uniform for these lectures, even though she was no longer on active duty.

“My most important achievement, besides building the compiler, is teaching young people. You know, they come up to me and say, “Do you think we can do this?” I say, “Try it.” And I encourage them. They need it. I follow their development, and at times I encourage them to take risks and take professional challenges.”

Hopper was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with all military honors.

The Fleet Center for Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography is located at 7 Grace Hopper Avenue, Monterey, California.

There is a Grace Murray Hopper Park located on South Joyce Street in Arlington, Virginia. It is a small memorial park laid out in front of the Grace Hopper Mansion (River House Apartments). It is currently owned by Arlington County, Virginia.

Employees of Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, have formed a working group called “The Hoppers” (the “Hoppers”) and established a scholarship in honor of Grace. “The Hoppers have more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Brewster Academy, a boarding school located in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, USA, dedicated its computer lab to Grace in 1985, naming the class the Grace Murray Hopper Computer Learning Center. The Academy also awards the Grace Murray Hopper Award to graduates who excel in computer systems classes. As a child, Hopper spent the summer months at the family mansion in Wolfeboro.

The administration building of Naval Base, Annapolis (formerly known as Naval Station, Annapolis) in Annapolis, Maryland, is named the “Grace Hopper Building” after Admiral Hopper.

Building 1482 of the North Island Naval Air Station, containing the Navy’s computer and the San Diego Telecommunications Station, has also been called the Grace Hopper Building.

Building 6007 “C2

A named professorship in the Department of Computer Science was established at Yale University in honor of Grace. Joan Figenbaum was appointed to the position in 2008.

Grace Hopper’s legacy was the reason for the creation of the Honoring Women in Information Technology conference. This annual event is dedicated to bringing women’s research and career interests in IT to the forefront.

The bridge over Goose Creek that connects the north and south portions of the Navy base, part of Joint Base Charleston, S.C., is named the “Grace Hopper Memorial Bridge” in honor of Admiral Hopper.

For much of her later career, Hopper was exceptionally in demand as a speaker at various computer-related events. She was widely known for her lively and free-spirited style of storytelling, and as a treasure trove of early war tales. In that milieu, Hopper earned the nickname “Grandma COBOL.

While developing the Mark II computer at Harvard University in 1947, her colleagues found and removed a moth stuck in a relay and blocking signal transmission; this case Hopper noted as “debugging” the system – in American English, the word debugging literally meant “removing insects. Although the term “computer bug” cannot be credibly attributed to Admiral Hopper, she has provided the term “debugging” with renowned popularity. The moth’s remains are preserved in the group’s logbook (the logbook, in turn, is preserved at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, DC).

Hopper is famous for figuring out how to visualize the concept of the nanosecond. People (e.g., generals and admirals) often asked her why satellite communications took so long. To illustrate, Grace began giving them pieces of cord 30 centimeters long, because that’s how much light travels in one nanosecond. To these pieces Grace gave the method name “nanoseconds. Hopper clarified for the audience that this was the maximum distance that light travels in a vacuum without interference, and that signals travel longer on the real cables that served as her guide.

She later used the same metaphor to illustrate why fast computers must be small. At many of her lectures and visits, she handed out “nanoseconds” to the audience, supplementing her presentation with a cove of a 300 meter long cable denoting a microsecond. Later, when lecturing for the DEC, she handed out bags of ground pepper, the grains of which she called “picoseconds.

Jay Elliott described Grace Hopper as presenting herself as “a war sailor to the bone” with a hidden “pirate” inside.


  1. Хоппер, Грейс
  2. Grace Hopper
  3. ^ On the retired list from December 31, 1966 to August 1, 1967 and from 1971–1972.[47]
  4. Архив по истории математики Мактьютор
  5. “Carson”, “Erin” (23 de Novembro de 2016). «White House honors two of tech’s female pioneers». “CBS News”. Consultado em 14 de Agosto de 2019
  6. Williams, Kathleen (2004). Grace Hopper: Admiral of the Cyber Sea. [S.l.]: Naval Institute Press
  7. a b Green, Judy and Jeanne LaDuke (2009). Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD’s. Providence, R.I.: American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-0821843765
  8. Richard L. Wexelblat, ed. (1981). History of Programming Languages. Nueva York: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-745040-8.
  9. Donald D. Spencer (1985). Computers and Information Processing. C.E. Merrill Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-675-20290-9.
  10. Phillip A. Laplante (2001). Dictionary of computer science, engineering, and technology. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-2691-2.
  11. Bryan H. Bunch, Alexander Hellemans (1993). The Timetables of Technology: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in the History of Technology. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-76918-5.
  12. Bernhelm Booss-Bavnbek, Jens Høyrup (2003). Mathematics and War. Birkhäuser Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7643-1634-1.
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