Grace Hopper (1906-1992)
New York City, New York, USA
Digital Illustration, 24" x 32", 2022
Grace Hopper was a computer scientist and a U.S. Navy rear admiral. She is responsible for creating the first machine-independent programming language. She became the first programmer of the Harvard Mark I computer and she invented linkers, a computer system program using object files.
Hopper graduated in 1934 with her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. She was considered one of the first female modern “programmers.” She then joined the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Navy during World War II. On a team of three programmers, she wrote the manual for the Harvard Mark I, the first computer that could solve numerous numerical problems. While working on the Mark II, Hopper and her colleague first coined the term “computer bug.”
As a teacher, Hopper would hand out wire models, her nanosecond visual aids. She demonstrated that one nanosecond was the time it took light to travel around and through the circle of the wire thus demonstrating why engineering smaller components could lead to faster computers.
Hopper worked on and advanced numerous computer systems/languages throughout her career; UNIVAC I, FLOW-MATIC. Her work later became the foundation for the COBOL language. Hopper was 34 years old when she joined the U.S. Naval Reserve, retiring at the age 60. Twice after her retirement, she was recalled to active duty. On the day she officially retired, she was the oldest active duty commissioned officer at age 79.