Grace Murray Hopper Biography (1906-1992)

mathematician and computer programmer

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was a pioneer in the development of computer languages. She played an essential role in the development and standardization of COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), which led to wide-spread use of computers in business, governmental, and science applications. Hopper received her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale in 1934 and taught at Vassar College until1943. She enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University. In 1944, she became one of the firstprogrammers of the Mark I, the first automatic sequence digital computer. Hercomputer team was the first to use the term "bug" to refer to a computer glitch after a two-inch moth was found in the circuits of the Mark I. After World War II, she joined the Naval Reserve and developed software for the Mark Iand Mark II while she was a research fellow at Harvard's Computation Library.She joined the Remington Rand Corporation (which later became the Sperry-Rand Corporation) in 1949 and was soon one of the first senior programmers in the computer industry. Her participation in the creation of UNIVAC, the first general-purpose commercial computer, led to the production of the first language compiler (also known as an assembly language, or assembler ), A-0, later named the A-2. This invention led to the FLOW-MATIC , a more advanced and commercially viable English-language compiler in the mid-1950s. As a result of FLOW-MATIC, programmers could write one command, which would then set off a command sequence in machine-specific, problem-oriented machine code. This computer machine language streamlined programming, eliminating time-consuming stepsand making computers more accessible to those without extensive knowledge ofthe machine's physical characteristics. Hopper became a proponent of the standardization of computer language, culminating in her development of COBOL inthe late 1950s. COBOL utilized word commands instead of mathematical symbols, significantly simplifying required training and knowledge of specific computers. As a result, business and government began to see computers as a practical and worthwhile tool. Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966, onlyto be called back seven months later to further develop the standardization of COBOL. In 1973, she was promoted by a special act of Congress to the rank of captain. She retired as a rear admiral in 1986, and spent the rest of her life lecturing and writing on the further development and use of high-level computer languages.

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