Today: Engineering and Physical Sciences CLOSED

Grace Hopper's Birthday

American mathematician, Navy Admiral, and pioneer in computer science, Grace Murray Hopper was born on December 9, 1906. Born in New York City, Hopper was educated at Vassar College and Yale University. After graduating, she took a teaching position at Vassar College, but left in 1943 to join to United States Navy Reserve’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program. While in WAVES, Hopper worked for the Bureau of Ships Computation Project and was influential in programing the Mark I computer. The Mark I computer performed computations for the U.S. Navy and Hopper helped to program it. Along with the Mark I computer, Hopped also worked to develop UNIVAC I, one of the first computers design for business and administrative use, and COBOL, a programming language. During work on the Mark II, Hopper coined the term “debugging” when a moth was removed from the computer. While working on UNIVAC I, Hopper began work on her A compiler, which could translate computer programming into another computer language. Hopper’s compiler is believed to be the first one ever created.  COBOL, which stood for COmmon Business-Oriented Language, was one of those early programming languages and Hopper developed software for the Navy to use this language. Along with her programming and mathematical work, Hopper also developed standards for computer systems and components. These tests, popularized by the Navy and other government departments, became the National Institution of Standards and Technology that we have today. After a final, official retirement in 1986, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and was the oldest active duty office in the Navy. She worked as a consultant and lecturer until her death in 1992.

Items in Our Collection:

American Women Scientists 23 Inspiring Biographies, 1900-2000 by Moira Davison Reynolds

A to Z of Women in Science and Math by Lisa Yount

Mathematics and War by Bernhelm Booss and Jens Hyrup