Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper, born on December 9, 1906, was an American computer scientist, United States Navy rear admiral, Ph.D. academic, and a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first linkers. Hopper remains a great source of inspiration to this day. After her death on January 1, 1992, Hopper was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Today, we are going to honor the late innovator by celebrating her life and accomplishments on her birthday!

Fast Facts

Full Name:

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper

Nickname:

Amazing Grace, Grandma COBOL

Birth date:

December 9, 1906

Death date:

January 1, 1992 (age 85)

Zodiac Sign:

Sagittarius

Height:

5' 6"

Background

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was an American computer scientist and a United States Navy rear admiral born in New York City to parents Walter Fletcher Murray and Mary Campbell Van Horne, who were of Scottish and Dutch descent. After leaving high school, Hopper graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar in 1928 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics and went on to earn her master’s degree at Yale University in 1930. In 1934, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale, and later, began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1931. She was promoted to associate professor in 1941.

During World War II Hopper tried to join the Navy, however, she was rejected due to her age and then joined the Navy Reserves. She started her computing career in 1944 when she worked on the Harvard Mark I team led by Howard H. Aiken, and in 1949, she joined the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation and was part of the group that created the UNIVAC I computer. While she was part of Eckert–Mauchly, Hopper developed one of the first COBOL compilers, which would convert English terms into machine code understood by computers. By 1952, Hopper had finished her program linker (initially called a compiler), which was written for the A-0 System.

Her other ventures included co-writing three papers based on her work on the Harvard Mark 1, during her wartime service, and in 1954, Hopper was chosen by Eckert–Mauchly to lead their division for automatic programming. In 1959, she partook in the CODASYL consortium, which led to the COBOL language. In 1966, Hopper exited the Naval Reserve, but in 1967 the Navy recalled her to active duty. She retired from the Navy in 1986 and began working as a consultant for the Digital Equipment Corporation. In 1992, on New Year’s Day, Hopper died in her sleep of natural causes in Arlington, Virginia, when she was 85 years of age.

Career timeline

1934
She Gets Her Ph.D.

Hopper graduates from Yale with a Ph.D. in mathematics.

1944
Hopper Enters the Computing Industry

She starts working on the Harvard Mark I.

1952
The COBOL Compiler is Completed

She works on one of the first COBOL compilers, which converts English terms into machine code understood by computers.

1983
She Becomes Commodore/Rear Admiral

She is given the rank of Commodore/Rear Admiral.

1986
She Retires and Starts Consulting

Hopper retires from the Navy and begins consulting for the Digital Equipment Corporation.

Why We Love Grace Hopper

  1. She paved the way for women in computing

    She was a pioneer and a huge inspiration for women in computer science. The women at Microsoft even formed an employee group called "Hoppers."

  2. She loved to share her knowledge

    Hopper took great pride in training and mentoring young people. She always encouraged others to try and supported them in their journey.

  3. Even after death, she is still helping to create the future

    Every year women from far and wide attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a "series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront." Her achievements made her a legend and an inspiration to many.

5 Surprising Facts

  1. She was curious from a young age

    At seven years old, Hopper dismantled seven alarm clocks to see how they worked.

  2. She was highly honored

    During her lifetime, Hopper received 40 honorary degrees from universities across the world.

  3. She coined popular computer terms

    She is credited with coining the terms “bug” and “de-bugging” with regard to computer errors.

  4. Her name adorns several places and objects

    Several places, objects, and organizations are named after Hopper, such as the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer, a college at Yale, and Minor planet 5773 Hopper, to name a few.

  5. Her most famous quote

    Hopper is credited for the saying "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

Grace Hopper FAQs

Did Grace Hopper get married?

Yes, she did. She married New York University professor Vincent Foster Hopper in 1930 and they divorced in 1945.

When did Grace Hopper receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 22, 2016.

Did Grace Hopper have any children?

No, she did not have any children.

Grace Hopper’s birthday dates

YearDateDay
2024December 9Monday
2025December 9Tuesday
2026December 9Wednesday
2027December 9Thursday
2028December 9Saturday

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