Grace Hopper


Walter Fletcher and Mary Van Home Murray had their first child, Grace Brewster Murray, December 9, 1906 in New York City.  Grace he was the oldest child of Walter Fletcher and Mary Van Home Murray. Grace grew up in New York City, then moved upstate to Poughkeepsie in 1924 to attend Vassar College, where she earned a B.S. in mathematics in 1928.  From Vassar she went to Yale University where she received an M.A. in 1931.  She became an instructor in mathematics at Vassar while she completed her Ph.D. at Yale.  She was awarded her Ph.D. in 1934 for a thesis New Types of Irreducibility Criteria. She would receive over thirty honorary Ph.D.s before she died.

While at Yale she met and married Vincent Hopper who taught English at NYU.  The two married were married in 1930.  The two separated in the early 1940's and divorced in 1945.  Hopper was killed that year in WWII.

Despite being too old (34) and to slight of frame, Hopper convinced the Navel reserves to accept her in December, 1943.   Grace Hopper joined the U.S. Naval reserve and was awarded a commission as a lieutenant in July 1944.  She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University.  The Bureau employed the Mark I computer to calculate complex mathematical problems involved in weapons delivery.  Hopper was the third person to join the research team directed by Howard H. Aiken. Hopper made numerous important contributions while at Havard.  She developed the first compiler ever written ,the A compiler, and played a significant role in the development of the computer language COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), and UNIVAIC.  She is credited with introducing the term "debugging" by removing a moth from a relay and taping it with comment into the log book.  Hopper worked for the navy, Harvard, Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, Sperry Corporation, and numerous other organizations until shortly before her death.

The USS Hopper, was the second ship named after a woman.  She eventually achieved the rank of admiral.  The Legion of Merit, 1973; Distinguished Fellow, British Computer Society, 1973; National Medal of Technology; Navy Meritorious Service Medal, 1980; Defense Distinguished Service Medal, 1986, were among the many honors bestowed on Hopper.  She died January 1, 1992.




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