Grace Hopper Born This Day in 1906
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 09 December 2011

Grace Hopper is remembered as Mother of Cobol and the person who invented the term "bug". Part of her legacy has been to inspire efforts to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront and Computer Science Education Week is timed to coincide with her birthday.


Grace Brewster Murray Hopper,

December 9,1906- January 1,1992


Grace Brewster Murray certainly suffered, at first at least, from the disadvantage of being a woman with an interest in technology. Having earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale she could only look forward to teaching maths at no more than high school level - women were not expected to do any more. But Grace did manage to do more.

In 1931 she started to work her way up through the Vassar teaching hierarchy - first as an instructor, then as an assistant professor and finally as an associate professor. Just before this she married Vincent Hopper and so changed her name from Murray to Hopper. They divorced in 1945, an event which left her free to pursue her contributions to computing without having to fit into the stereotype of the time.

After the US entered the Second World War Grace Hopper joined the US Navy Reserve. During the war she served on the Mark I computer programming staff headed by Howard H. Aiken.

At the end of the war Hopper's request to transfer to the regular Navy was declined due to her age (38). However, she continued to serve in the Navy Reserve.

Although she initially retired in 1966, she was recalled to active duty in August 1967 for a six-month period that turned into an indefinite assignment and her work on COBOL from 1967 to 1977 was as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group in the Navy's Office of Information Systems Planning.

When she finally retired in 1986 she was the oldest commissioned officer in the United States Navy and had rank attained the rank of Rear Admiral. So she had defeated ageism as well as sexism and was responsible for the continuous pressure within the industry to make computers and computing more accessible.




To learn more about Grace Hopper and about COBOL see the following articles in our History Section.


Grace Hopper - The Mother of Cobol

The rise of people power - Computer languages in the 70's

Book Review - Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age


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