When it comes to discussing talented women who made significant contributions to America’s war efforts and programming languages, Grace Hopper is a name many people should be interested in knowing about, especially those who served in the US Navy.

The Early Life of Grace Hopper

Born Grace Brewster Murray Hopper on December 9, 1906, in New York N.Y. Grace Brewster Murray was the oldest of three siblings in her family. She was known for having a curiosity for things as a child. She was noted to have taken many clocks apart as a young person to learn their inner workings.

Grace Brewster Murray met a man who was a professor at New York University named Vincent Foster Hopper. The couple was married from 1930 to 1945. They did end up divorcing in 1945, according to a posting about it on Wikipedia.org, but Grace kept her ex-husband’s name for the rest of her life. Indeed, Grace never remarried.

Being someone of strong character and work ethic, Grace Hopper faced many hurdles to reach a fantastic place in her work career as part of the Navy Reserve. Grace Hopper tried to enlist in the US Navy early in World War II, but was rejected for her age — she was 34 at the time she wanted to enlist — and weight and height requirements were not what the US Navy was looking for. Grace Hopper worked as both a mathematician and as a professor while at Vassar College when she contemplated enlisting full-time with the Navy. However, the Navy Reserve would ultimately put her on the path to great notoriety, high military rank, and fame. She earned her rightful position as a Rear Admiral in the Navy Reserve under President Ronald Reagan.

Awards and Accolades

Throughout her life, Grace Hopper received many awards, medals, and accolades. She also received posthumous awards as well. As noted on Wikipedia.org, on November 22, 2016, Grace Hopper was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously) by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Concerning the medals that Grace Hopper was awarded, the list includes the following: American Campaign Medal (1944), a World War II Victory Medal (1945), a Naval Reserve Medal (1953), a National Defense Service Medal in 1953 and 1966. Grace Hopper also received the Armed Forces Medal in 1963, 1973, and 1983. Moreover, Hopper also earned the Meritorious Service Medal in 1980 and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, which she received in 1986.

Grace Hopper even had a military vessel called the USS Hopper (DDG-70) named after her. Hopper is very distinguished in many ways, especially being one of the few women who has had military vessels named after them.

She has also had employees at companies agree to have scholarships named after her as well as bridges (Grace Hopper Memorial Bridge in South Charleston, South Carolina) and even Robotics competitions named after her.

It is very safe to say that Grace Hopper will be known throughout the world for the contributions she made in areas of computer science and mathematics.

Grace Hopper’s Educational Background

Grace Hopper worked hard to get to the top of the most impressive computer programmers in U.S. history. Hopper earned her Ph.D. in mathematics at Yale University. She received undergraduate degrees in both Physics and Mathematics from Vassar College, before earning her Master’s degree in 1930 from Yale University.

The UNIVAC and Mark I

When it comes to significant contributions in areas of computer science and computer programming, the Harvard Mark I and the UNIVAC are things that Grace Hopper had had hands-on experience with. While in the Navy Reserve, she attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Hopper excelled while at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School that was part of Smith College. And in 1944, Hopper graduated first in her graduating class at Smith College. Because of her aptitude, Hopper ended up being assigned to an important project involving the Bureau of Ships at Harvard University at that time during World War II.

Hopper worked as part of the Harvard Mark I computer programming team that was run by Howard H. Aiken. Grace Hopper and Howard Aiken were responsible for co-authoring approximately three papers on the Harvard Mark I. The Mark I was also known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.

Grace Hopper worked at Harvard University’s Computation Laboratory through the rest of the 1940s. Grace Hopper’s was noted to have asked to join the U.S Navy as World War II was coming to a close, but was not admitted due to her age at that time. At 38, she decided to continue with the Navy Reserve. Hopper had defined a full professorship position at Vassar College. She wanted to work as a research fellow at Harvard for the U.S. Navy.

Regarding her work with the UNIVAC I, Hopper left Harvard in 1949 and became an employee of Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation. While working for Eckert–Mauchly, she worked as a mathematician with a team that was developing the UNIVAC I, according to Wikipedia.org. Hopper also held the role of UNIVAC director for the company, Remington Rand. The UNIVAC was considered the first electronic computer (large scale) to be available for sale in 1950. The UNIVAC was considered to have better processing information capabilities than the Mark I, which Grace Hopper also had worked with.

For Grace Hopper, both the UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) and the Mark I were the preeminent computers of their day. And it is noted on Wikipedia.org that the UNIVAC I was the first commercial computer created in the U.S.

Lasting Legacy

Grace Hopper would end up retiring the Navy in 1986, after originally being sworn into the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1943. After retiring from the Navy, Grace Hopper went on to work for the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Hooper would make even larger contributions to areas of programming in a post-World War II world.

Hopper passed away from natural causes at her home in Arlington, Va, in 1992 at the age of 85. Hopper will forever be remembered for making quote a mark on the computer science and computer programming milieu. While the UNIVAC I was quite an impressive machine for the day, Grace Hopper made a large impact with her work at Harvard University on a contract with the Navy and the Mark I.

Grace Hopper’s true genius was in the ability to innovate and see the future as she put together her thoughts for the first compiler tool in her papers. Her work would help contribute directly to the creation of COBOL (Common Business-Programming Language) as well as Object-oriented programming (OOP) languages.

Grace Hopper and The Creation of COBOL

Hopper’s opinions about this COBOL language using English words were adopted when the language was created. A committee of some of Hopper’s former employees was brought together to create COBOL in early 1959. Hopper was noted to have served as a consultant to the CODASYL committee regarding the technical side of things.

This committee was made up of computer experts who worked in the government and big industry. This two-day conference that took place in the spring of 1959, according to Wikipedia.org, was noted to be called (CODASYL) or the Conference on Data Systems Languages.

CODASYL was known for covering two main activities: Working on the creation of the COBOL language as well as the standardizing of database interfaces. CODASYL was also responsible for working on many other things, like end-user form interfaces as well as control languages for operating systems. These two main focuses by CODASYL were not responsible for having a long-lasting impact, although there are committees still in existence today that were part of CODASYL, according to Wikipedia.org.

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