Tech Women: Meet Grace Hopper, Computer Scientist From America

Charvi Kathuria
Dec 07, 2017 06:36 IST
New Update

A tech woman who amazed the world with her acumen in computer science is Grace Hopper. Born in 1906 in New York, she is known to be one of the first programmers in the history of computers. Besides that, she strove to raise a generation of young people well-versed with programming. She was also United States Navy rear admiral.


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Hopper had started showing signs of an exceptional intellect since childhood. She was only seven years old when she resolved to understand the working of a clock. In a bid to accomplish her mission, she took apart every single alarm clock in the house.

"Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew," - Grace Hopper

Her mother encouraged Hopper in all her endeavours and didn’t believe in thwarting her from pursuing what she wanted to because of her gender.

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It was her father’s support for girls’ education that propelled her to study math and physics at Vassar and then Yale, earning her PhD in mathematics in 1931. After graduating, Grace stayed at Vassar to teach math for the next ten years before turning to the US Navy.

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Career and contribution in computer science

Hopper's most significant contribution in computing was the invention of the compiler that translated English language instructions into the language of the target computer.

Her research formed the basis of digital computing: subroutines, formula translation, relative addressing, the linking loader, code optimization, and even symbolic manipulation of the kind embodied in Mathematica and Maple.

She wanted a certain international standardization of computer languages and she strongly advocated validation procedures.


Hopper also invented COBOL, the first user-friendly business software program, which is still in use today.

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“The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ I say ‘Try it’ and I back them up.” - Grace Hopper

Awards and legacy

Hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991. With this, she became the first female individual recipient of the honour. She was awarded with 40 degrees from different universities around.

At the age of 85, she died in Arlington, Virginia on January 1, 1992. She was laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery. Google dedicated a Doodle to Hopper on her 107th birthday on December 9, 2013.

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