Computer Science Education Week: Who is Grace Hopper?

Grace Hopper (1906-1992) studied math and physics at Vassar and Yale in a time many women did not attend college. A professor at Vassar college when World War II erupted, she was compelled to join the US Navy to assist with the war efforts.

Grace_HopperGrace was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, she worked with a team to program a Mark 1 computer that read its instructions from a 24-channel punched paper tape. After the war she continued to work at Harvard as a Reserve Officer on the Mark II and Mark III computers and it was there the first “computer bug” was found. That bug was an actual moth that shorted out the computer, she helped popularize the widely used term “computer bug.” 

1 bug /ˈbʌg/

: a problem that prevents a computer program or system from working properly

We found/detected a bug [=glitch] in the program.
The software was full of bugs.
They’ve been trying to work/get the bugs out of the system. [=trying to fix the system’s problems]

Here are just a few of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper’s accomplishments beyond the bug:

  • In 1953 her team created the first compiler for computer languages (a compiler takes worded instructions and renders them into a format computers understand).
  • Retired in 1986 at age 79 from the US Navy as the oldest serving officer and at the rank of Rear Admiral.
  • The first individual female recipient of the National Medal of Technology in 1991.
  • Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 posthumously by Barack Obama.

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