WWE- Weekend Woman Engineer- Grace Hopper

I thought I’d start a new blog series about inspiring women in engineering.  Since I have a little more time on the weekends to do research, I’ll post these on the weekend.

On the very top of my list of – who would you like to eat dinner with, dead or alive, is Grace Hopper.  I think she was one of the coolest women of all time.  Why? Read on…

A few things we can thank Grace Hopper for…

  • Not having to program in a cryptic machine language- but actually being able to write in understandable English.  Grace developed the first computer compiler
  • Those early years when people learned to program in COBOL. Grace conceptualized and led the development of COBOL, one of the 1st computer languages
  • Every time someone says “debug” or “I’ve found a bug”, they can thank Grace.  She coined the term after finding a two inch moth in the Harvard Mark 1 experimental computer in 1945.
  • The ease at which most of us can pick up new computer programming languages due to their similarities.  Grace pioneered the implementation of standards for testing computer programming languages and systems.
  • The saying “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”- It’s one of her famous quotes.

Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and a rear admiral in the United States Navy. (She was one of the first women to be promoted to rear admiral in 1985).  She was born in 1906 and went to Vassar to receive a degree in mathematics and physics, then Yale for a masters and PhD in mathematics.

At age 34 she joined the Navy (inspired to serve her country with the outbreak of WWII) and became a programmer for the Harvard Mark 1, the  world’s first large-scale automatically sequenced digital computer. The computer was used to calculate aiming angles for Naval guns in varying weather conditions. Because the numbers were so pertinent, Hopper and her assistants were often required to run and monitor the system twenty-four hours a day.

Her years of service to the country led to a US Navy Destroyer, the USS Hopper, being named after her.

Grace won many awards, but she also has a great legacy that lives on today through scholarships in her name, and the Grace Hopper conference. I think it is one of the best technical conference for women, especially those in computer science and computer engineering.  Her legacy and impact continues to live on.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shalom Bresticker on February 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Actually, it’s a myth that Grace Hopper coined the term “bug”.
    There are several proofs to that.
    That doesn’t detract from all her other achievements, of course.

    Shalom Bresticker

    Reply

  2. Posted by magoodma on February 22, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    You are right! I didn’t know that. I guess I should have checked a few more sources as I pulled this together. It looks like she does get credit for the word “debug”, but not “bug”.

    Reply

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