top of page

Women Heroes:Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper was one of the noteworthy women in STEM with her outstanding contribution to computer science and technology.

Hopper was a pioneering computer scientist and naval officer. She made significant contributions to programming, software development, and programming languages. She

successful careers in the Navy and computer industry, known for being innovative and independent.

Early life and education

Grace Brewster Murray was born in 1906 in New York City to parents Walter Fletcher Murray and Mary Campbell Van Horne. In 1928, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with degrees in mathematics and physics.

While pursuing her doctorate, she taught mathematics at Vassar and also obtained her master's degree in mathematics from Yale. She completed her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale in 1934. During a one-year sabbatical from Vassar, Hopper studied under the guidance of the renowned mathematician Richard Courant at New York University.


Grace made significant contributions to the war effort during World War II. Despite facing initial rejection due to her age and size, she persevered and received a waiver to join the U.S. Naval Reserve. She completed relentless training and was transferred to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University, where she played a vital role in designing the MARK I, the first electro-mechanical computer in the United States. Hopper and her colleagues worked on calculations necessary to the war effort, such as computing rocket trajectories and creating range tables for new anti-aircraft guns.

She even wrote the user manual for the MARK I, which shows her commitment to the project. After the war, Hopper resumed to operate with computers, but she faced challenges due to her gender. Despite being offered a full professorship, she turned it down to continue her work with computers.

In 1949, Grace Hopper joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. During her time there, she designed one of the earliest compilers that translated a programmer's instructions into computer codes. As head programmer, she contributed to the design of UNIVAC I.

Hopper remained with the company through its acquisition by Remington Rand in 1951 and by Sperry Rand Corp. in 1955. In 1957, her division created Flow-Matic, the first English-language data-processing compiler. This compiler encouraged the expansion of COBOL, a programming language that Hopper supported and advocated for. Her work on developing compilers for COBOL contributed to the language's widespread usage in the 1960s. Hopper retired from the Navy in 1966 with the rank of commander. Nevertheless, she was later called back to active duty in 1967 to assist standardize the Navy's computer languages. She was promoted to commodore in 1983 and was the oldest officer on active U.S. naval duty when she retired again at the age of 79 in 1986.


  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation

  • IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award


by minnith susan nebu


bottom of page