Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper
In the world of
technology, most women do not get the recognition that Rear Admiral Dr.
Grace Murray Hopper has received. Hopper is the mother of computing.
Her development of the first computer compiler and the first computer
programming language helped revolutionize the world of computers.
Although Hopper had a career decorated with many rewards, she had to
prove herself repeatedly. She once said, "If you do
something once, people will call it an accident. If you do it twice,
they call it a coincidence. But do it a third time and you've just
proven a natural law!" She holds honoree doctorates from over thirty
universities and many of her writings have influenced programs made
today. Perseverance and knowledge are two traits that made her a great
leader. She was determined not to let anyone get in the way of her
vision of creating a much wider audience for computing.
Grace Murray Hopper Timeline
1906 Born in New York
1928 Graduated from Vassar College with Phi Beta Kappa
1930 Earned her Masters in Math and Physics at Yale
1934 Earned her Ph.D. in Math and Physics at Yale
1941 Joined Vassar's faculty as a professor in Math and Physics
1943 Joined the Naval Reserves
1946 Returned to inactive duty; Joined Harvard's Computation Laboratory
1949 Joined Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp as a senior mathematician
1967 Recalled to active duty
1971 Retired from the Navy
1972 Asked to come out of retirement by the Navy
1983 Appointed to Commodore
1985 Appointed to Rear Admiral
1986 Second retirement from the Navy; Became a consultant for Digital
Equipment Corp (DEC)
1992 Died January 1
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, her knowledge, and
her determination she took the world of computers to a new level.
New York Days
Grace Hopper was born in 1906. From an early age, Hopper was good with
gadgets. She would take apart alarm clocks just for fun.
In 1928, this New York native received her BA. in math and physics from
In 1943, during World War II, she joined the United States Naval
Reserves. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation
Project. There she became the third programmer of the world's first
large-scale computer called the Mark I. When she saw it, all she could
think about was taking it apart and figuring it out. "That was an
impressive beast. She was fifty-one feet long, eight feet high, and
five feet deep," said Hopper. She mastered the Mark I, Mark II, and
Mark III. While trying to repair the Mark I she discovered a moth
caught in a relay. She taped the moth in the log book and from that
coined the phrase "a bug in the computer".
After her tour of duty, Hopper went on to work for Eckert-Mauchly
Corporation. She wanted to provide businesses with computers that were
both application-friendly and programmer-friendly. There, she mastered
the UNIVAC I, the first large-scale electronic computer. She saw that
the programmers would constantly have to retype certain commands for
every program they did. Hopper encouraged them to write the commands
once and place them in shared libraries of code. This reduced the
amount of errors and stress for the programmers. Soon, the programs
contained mnemonics that were transformed into binary codes that were
executable by the computer. Hopper created a program that translated
symbolic math codes into machine language. This allowed the programmers
to store codes on magnetic tape and re-call them when they were needed.
This was the first compiler. Hopper believed that programming did not
have to be a difficult task. Since computers only read binary codes, a
series of 0s and 1s placed in a certain order that the computer
understands, she believed that programs could be written in English and
then translated into binary code. This program was known as FLOW-MATIC.
This language helped the UNIVAC I and II understand twenty English
statements. This programming language was used for typical business
work, such as payroll and billing.
Recalled to Active Duty
In 1966, Hopper retired from the Naval Reserves, but was called back to
active duty one year later. The navy wanted her to oversee a program to
standardize its computer programs and their languages. One of the
programs she help develop was COBOL.
During her rise up the Naval ladder, Hopper had to convince a lot of
people to change their habits. On a daily basis, she heard someone say,
"but that's how we've always done it." Hopper believed that change was
good, and needed. "I'm going to shoot somebody for saying that
someday," she would quip. "In the computer industry, with changes
coming as fast as they do, you just can't afford to have people saying
that." To prove that things did not always have to be done a certain
way, Hopper had a clock on her wall that ran counter clockwise.
Hopper considered her greatest accomplishment to be all the young
people she trained. She spent a lot of time lecturing and writing. Many
of her analogies and examples have become legendary. Hopper is
responsible for "debugging" the computer. She coined the phrase after
finding a moth inside a computer. Once she used a piece of wire to
represent a nanosecond. A nanosecond is the maximum distance
electricity can travel through a wire in one-billionth of a second. She
used this as a way to explain why programmers should not waste time,
not even a microsecond.
23, 1995: Keel Laid.
January 6, 1996: Move aboard - Sail Around
from Bath, ME to San Francisco CA.
September 6, 1997: Commissioning. San
Francisco, CA. - RIMPAC 98.
August 31, 1998 to February 26, 1999: PACMEF
January 11, 2000 to February 17th, 2000: MEFEX
00-2, San Deigo, CA
April 6, 2000 to September 20, 2000: PACMEF
Awards the ship has received since commissioning:
Navy Unit Commendation Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2 awards)
Coast Guard Unit Commendation
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Blue and gold are traditionally used
by the Navy. The lion, a symbol of strength and courage, stands for the
USS Hopper's characteristics of survivability and alludes to the ship's
motto ( DARE AND DO ). The rampant lion has been adapted from the arms
of Scotland and refers to Rear Admiral Hopper's heritage. Gold stands
for excellence; blue is for devotion to duty.
The Crest: The lozenge,
traditionally used in
the coats of arms of women, honors Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. Her
distinction as the first woman to achieve the rank of rear admiral is
represented by the single silver star. The trident symbolizes her love
for the United States Navy and her Naval service, the focus of her
life's work. The lightning bolts, framing the bottom of the shield,
connote the image of ship's hull cutting through the sea. They also
represent the sophistication and power of the Aegis warship, in large
part made possible by Admiral Hopper's pioneering work in the computer
field. The wreath consists of laurel and oak representing honor and
strength. red denotes courage and sacrifice; gold stands for excellence.
Motto: The Latin phrase "AUDE ET
translates into the English phrase "DARE AND DO", in context of a
command. RADM Hopper was frequently quoted using this phrase when
issuing advice. The phrase captures the spirit of RADM Hopper in her
quest for pushing the limits of conventional thinking and looking
beyond the norm for innovative solutions and approaches to problem
solving. The simple phrase, in Latin, exemplifies the essence of
Admiral Hopper's spirit while paying tribute to her tremendous academic