Photo of Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For her pioneering accomplishments in the development of computer programming languages that simplified computer technology and opened the door to a significantly larger universe of users.

In 1943, Grace Hopper took a leave of absence from teaching math at Vassar to enlist in the U.S. Navy Reserve, becoming part of the Navy’s first all-female division called Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Hopper was immediately assigned to the programming staff for the new Mark I computer, a machine weighing over 10,000 pounds.

As a child, Grace Hopper was determined to figure out how clocks worked and to find the answer, she took apart every single alarm clock in the house. Her parents encouraged that curiosity and fostered her interest in math and engineering– a choice that transformed the field of computer programming.

With the same childlike determination, Hopper went on to invent the first compiler for a computer programming language, which renders worded instructions into code that can be read by computers and are indispensable to programmers today. At a time when many believed computers could only do arithmetic, Hopper proved that they could do much more than that and became one of the first automation programmers.

By Jennifer Santisi