Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)
United States Navy Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a remarkable woman who grandly rose to the challenges of programming the first computers. During her lifetime as a leader in the field of software development concepts, she contributed to the transition from primitive programming techniques to the use of sophisticated compilers. She believed that “we’ve always done it that way” was not necessarily a good reason to continue to do so.(1)
Throughout her years in academia and industry, Admiral Hopper was a consultant and lecturer for the United States Naval Reserve. After a seven-month retirement, she returned to active duty in the Navy in 1967 as a leader in the Naval Data Automation Command.
Admiral Hopper believed that the major obstacle to computers in non-scientific and business applications was the dearth of programmers for these far from user-friendly new machines. The key to opening up new worlds to computing, she knew, was the development and refinement of programming languages – languages that could be understood and used by people who were neither mathematicians nor computer experts. It took several years for her to demonstrate that this idea was feasible.(1) She invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
She is also credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer).(2)
It was unusual for a woman in the 1950’s and 1960’s to have the kind of job Hopper did. She was outstanding in marketing and had amazing technical skills. Her nickname in the navy was “Amazing Grace.” People listened to her because she had the technical skills and the vision. She never gave up on her ideas. These qualities are what put her in the forefront of computing. Hopper had an edge over everyone in the computer business because she believed that there was always a way to improve on the technology. Through her dedication, knowledge, and determination she took the world of computers to a new level.(3)
She holds honoree doctorates from over thirty universities and many of her writings have influenced programs made today.(4)
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