Hopper - Biography
Grace Hopper (1906-1992) was one
of the first programmers to transform large digital computers from oversized
calculators into relatively intelligent machines capable of understanding
"human" instructions. Hopper invented the first computer "compiler" in
1952. A compiler is software that makes other computer software called
programming languages easier to write. Computer programmers had been required
to write programming instructions in binary code, a series of 0's and 1's.
Grace Hopper's compiler allowed programmers to use more human sounding
language commands to replace repetitive commands.
Grace Hopper also developed a common
language with which computers could communicate called Common Business-Oriented
Language or COBOL, now the most widely used computer business language
in the world. COBOL enabled firms large and small to compile computerized
payroll, billing, and other records.
Hopper being interviewed by Channel 3 Norfolk VA. Taken during Navy Micro
In addition to many other firsts,
Grace Hopper was the first woman to graduate from Yale University with
a Ph.D. in Mathematics, and in 1985, was the first woman ever to reach
the rank of admiral in the US Navy. During World War II, while employed
as a mathematics professor at Vasser College, Grace Hopper joined the United
States Naval Reserve. Her first assignment was with the Bureau of Ordnance
Computation Project at Harvard University, where she worked on some of
the Navy's first computers (read more about this in our feature
After the war, the Naval Reserve
officer returned to civilian life, eventually joining the Sperry Rand Corporation,
one of the computer industry's pioneering firms. During this period, she
was instrumental in the creation of the FLOW-MATIC language for the UNIVAC
I and UNIVAC II computers.
Grace Hopper's work was never patented;
her contributions were made before computer software technology was even
considered a "patentable" field. In 1986, four years before her death,
President Ronald Reagan awarded Hopper the prestigious National Medal of
Technology at a ceremony in the White House.
"It's easier to ask forgiveness
than it is to get permission." - Grace Hopper
Mary Bellis/army photos
Grace Murray Hopper "US Navy photo courtesy of Chips magazine"
with >>> The
Invention of the Mark I Computer - Howard Aiken & Grace Hopper