Explore Collections Search the Collection Fellow Awards Core Magazine Special Projects

Grace Murray Hopper

1987 Fellow

For contributions to the development of programming languages, for standardization efforts, and for lifelong naval service.


Biography

COBOL Tombstone, 1960
COBOL Tombstone, 1960

Grace Hopper was born in New York, New York, in 1906. She held a B.S. in mathematics and physics from Vassar College (1928) and an M.S. (1930) and Ph.D in mathematics (1934) from Yale University.

Hopper began her career teaching at Vassar and taught there from 1931 to 1943, when she joined the u.s. Navy Reserve. Her first assignment was to work with Professor Howard Aiken of the Harvard Computation Laboratory on problems of military significance.

Hopper remained at Harvard until 1949, when she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, led by the designers of the groundbreaking ENIAC computer system. There, she developed one of the world's first compilers and compiler-based programming languages. In 1959, Hopper played an important role in defining a new easy-to- use programming language. The result was COBOL, probably the most successful programming language for business applications in history.

Hopper retired from the u.s. Navy Reserve in 1986 with the rank of Rear Admiral and was then hired as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, a position she retained until her death in 1992, at age 86.

Hopper was widely recognized for her achievements and her often humorous lectures on computer science topics. She received many awards, including the u.s. National Medal of Technology (1991).