Women in STEM

Portrait of Grace Hopper; an elderly woman wearing glasses and a naval uniform stands against an American flag.

Grace Hopper

1906 - 1992 (U.S.A.)

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was born in New York City and was the oldest of three children.  Her early fascination on how things worked forced her mother to restrict Grace to one dismantled alarm clock, after Grace took apart seven others.  She was initially rejected by Vassar College, but was later admitted, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics.  Grace earned her Masters’ and PhD in mathematics from Yale University. She returned to Vassar to teach, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1941.

During WWII, Grace joined the United States Navy Reserve, assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University.  Remaining in the Naval Reserve after the war, Hopper was the oldest active duty commissioned officer in the US Naval Reserve when she retired at age 80 with the rank of Commander (after three previous forced resignations and reinstatements).  She was promoted to Rear Admiral by Presidential appointment, to honor her contribution to computer science during her career.  She served as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, where she worked until her death at age 85.

Why She Matters

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper developed the COBOL programming language, invented the first programming language compiler, and coined the term “De-Bugging” after her team removed a moth stuck in a computer relay. She was affectionately known as “Amazing Grace” due to her many accomplishments, and Grandma COBOL for the programming language she developed.

The first computer bug was preserved in Grace Hopper's project notebook with the notation: "First actual case of bug being found".

Sample of the COBOL programming language


Leaving a Legacy