This is the fifth in a series about Famous Women in STEM History. The goal of these articles is to encourage young women and girls to pursue a career in the STEM fields. I hope you share these stories so that others will hear the accomplishments of these women and be thus inspired to also find success in a STEM field.
When start describing someone’s career by saying they were a Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, you are likely to see a few raised eyebrows and people begin to take notice. That was Grace Hopper, a.k.a. the Grandmother of Computer Programming. Why did she have that nickname? It is because of Grace’s groundbreaking work in programming that she is given credit for being one of the creators of COBOL, and early high-level programming language that is still being used today. How about that! And that’s not all as there were plenty of other “firsts” for Grace.
In 1934, Grace graduated from Yale with a PhD in Mathematics, one of the few women at that time to earn such a degree and the first from Yale. She taught at Vassar until 1943 when she felt called to serve on the war effort. She joined the Navy because her grandfather was a “Navy man” and with her mathematical skills, the Navy assigned her to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she learned to program a Mark I computer. The start of many great things to come.
After the war, Hopper became a reserve naval officer and worked as a research fellow at Harvard, working on the Mark II and Mark III computers. By 1949, Grace wanted to do more work with computers and eventually moved to Remington Rand where she managed the programming of the UNIVAC computer. It was there in 1952 that her team created the first compiler of computer languages that would lead to the development of COBOL, a computer language widely used skill today.
By 1966, she was called back to active duty in the Navy, at age 60, with the need for her to lead the team to standardize communication between the different computer languages. She retired in 1986 at the age of 79, as a Rear Admiral in the Navy, and as the services oldest serving officer.
Some fun facts:
- Hopper was at Harvard when a moth was found to have shorted out the Mark II, and is sometimes given credit for the invention of the term “computer bug”—though she didn’t actually author the term, she did help popularize it.
- In 1997, the guided missile destroyer, USS Hopper, was commissioned by the Navy in San Francisco.
- On her birthday in 2013, Hopper was remembered with a “Google Doodle.”
- In 2016, Hopper was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama
Source: Wikipedia and Biography.com
Sheri Yarbray is a CEO, the founder of Your Therapy Source LLC a home healthcare staffing company, a STEM entrepreneur, and proud mom. Sheri is passionate about delivering high quality home healthcare to patients, inspiring young women to move into STEM careers, and sharing ideas about managing a balance between a work and a home life. You can follow Sheri on LinkedIn @Sheri Yarbray
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