Grace Hopper

17 Jun

Grace Hopper

(December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992)

One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark 1 Computer , Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was a naval officer and an American computer scientist.

Grace Murray Hopper

Grace Murray Hopper

As the first programmer of the Mark I Calculator and developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language, she was a true pioneer in the field of computing technology.

In 1949, Hopper became an employee of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation [Eckert and Mauchly were the inventors of ENIAC] joined the team developing the UNIVAC I. The company was taken over by Remington Rand corporation, in the early 1950s. Grace Hopper’s original compiler work was achieved whilst she worked for the Remington Rand corporation. The compiler was known as the A compiler and its first version was A-0. Later versions were released commercially as the ARITH-MATIC, MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC compilers.

She later returned to the Navy where she worked on validation software for the programming language COBOL and its compiler. COBOL was defined by the CODASYL committee which extended her FLOW-MATIC language with some ideas from the IBM equivalent, the COMTRAN.

Programming languages at that time were in machine code or languages close to machine code (such as assembly language). It was Grace Hopper’s idea that programmes could be written in a language that was closer to English and more intuitive.

In the 1970s, she pioneered the implementation of standards testing of computers, most significantly for programming languages, particularly for COBOL and the original FORTRAN language, (Formula Translator/Translation, today known as Fortran). The Navy Tests for conformance to these language standards led to significant convergence among the programming language dialects of the major computer vendors. These tests, and their official administration, were taken over in the 1980s by the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST.

Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander at the end of 1966. She was recalled to active duty in August of 1967 for a six-month period that turned into an indefinite assignment. She again retired in 1971 but was asked to return to active duty again in 1972. She was promoted to Captain in 1973 by Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr..

After Rep. Philip Crane saw her on a March 1983 segment of 60 Minutes, he championed a joint resolution in the House of Representatives which led to her promotion to Commodore by special Presidential appointment. By 1985 she became a Rear Admiral, Lower Half. She retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to celebrate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award possible by the Department of Defense. At the moment of her retirement, she was the oldest officer in the US Navy and aboard the oldest ship in the US Navy.

She was then hired as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, a position she retained until her death in 1992, aged 85.

Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Her primary activity in this capacity was as a Goodwill Ambassador, lecturing widely on the early days of computers, her career, and on efforts that computer vendors could take to make life easier for their users. She visited a large fraction of Digital engineering facilities where she generally received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks. She always wore her Navy full dress uniform to these lectures. She was laid to rest with full military honours in Arlington National Cemetery.

Honours List

  • 1969, she won the first “man of the year” award from the Data Processing Management Association.

  • 1971, the annual “Grace Murray Hopper Award for Outstanding Young Computer Professionals” was established by the Association for Computing Machinery.

  • 1973, she became the first person from the United States and the first woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.

  • 1986, upon her retirement she received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

  • 1987, she became a Computer History Museum Fellow Award Recipient.

  • 1988, she received the Golden Gavel Award at the Toastmasters International convention in Washington, DC.

  • 1991, she received the National Medal of Technology.

  • 1996, USS Hopper (DDG-70) was launched. Nicknamed Amazing Grace, it is on a very short list of U.S. military vessels named after women.

  • The Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center is located at 7 Grace Hopper Avenue in Monterey, California.

  • Grace Murray Hopper Park, located on South Joyce Street in Arlington, Virginia, is a small memorial park in front of her former residence (River House Apartments) and is now owned by Arlington County, Virginia.

  • Women at the world’s largest software company, Microsoft Corporation, formed an employee group called “Hoppers” and established a scholarship in her honour. Hoppers has over 3000 members worldwide.

  • Brewster Academy, a school located in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, USA, dedicated their computer lab to her in 1985, calling it the Grace Murray Hopper Center for Computer Learning. Hopper had spent her childhood summers at a family home in Wolfeboro.

  • An administration building on Naval Support Activity Annapolis (Previously known as Naval Station Annapolis) in Annapolis, Maryland is named “The Grace Hopper Building” in her honour.

Legal bit
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the authors.  Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this work neither the author, contributors, employees or advisers are able to accept any legal liability for any consequential loss or damage, however caused, arising as a result of any actions taken on the basis of the information contained in this work. All third-party brands and trademarks belong to their respective owners.  Copyright : Maggie Baldry

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Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Soft Footsteps


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