“If you do something once, people will call it an accident. If you do it twice, they call it a coincidence. But do it a third time and you’ve just proven a natural law.” -Grace Hopper.1
Grace Hopper, an accomplished American computer scientist and navy rear admiral, was born on December 9th, 1906, and raised in New York City. She received her B.A. from Vassar College, majoring in physics and math. After completing her undergraduate studies, she began teaching at Vassar College and later attended Yale University to complete her math Ph.D.2
She took a leave of absence from her job as a professor to enlist in the navy to help her country during World War II. After completing her naval training, the United States gave her a job at Harvard University’s Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project. She first became familiar with computer science while working on the team overseeing Mark I, the first large-scale automatic calculator used in World War II in the Crufts Laboratory. This Mark I was able to complete calculations that had previously taken a month in a single day.3
It has been claimed that her calculations and those of her team were crucial to the war effort.3 The military employed them to establish range tables for new weapons, calibrate minesweepers, and determine rocket trajectories. She was one of the key persons to program the Mark 1 calculator, one of the first computers of its kind, and distributed it to numerous businesses across the country. She also contributed to developing the Mark II, and III calculators. Did you know that the world’s first computer bug was recorded while working on the Mark II calculator. Read more about this story here.
The Inception of Computer Programming
Hopper became a senior mathematician at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which Remington Rand later acquired. She contributed to creating UNIVAC I, the first commercially available large-scale all-electronic computer. Hopper observed that many individuals did not continue to devote their time to computer science because they had difficulty understanding executable machine code. As a result, she developed the compiler, which today converts high-level programming languages into a language that computers can understand.
Many people initially viewed her proposal with skepticism because they thought computers could never comprehend English. But Hopper created the first compiler, A-0, which served as a linker and allowed programmers to write programs for multiple computers instead of just one. This was followed by the B-O compiler, which could comprehend 20 English statements. This was a fantastic discovery because, previously, computers could only understand lower-level programming languages, which were very challenging to understand by humans.3
Hopper was driven to create a computer language that used English words rather than mathematical symbols and could be applied to business tasks like calculating payroll for big businesses.
In the years 1954–1958, Hopper and her team created this new business computing language using the B-0 compiler, which quickly evolved into FLOW-MATIC. The idea behind “FLOW-MATIC” helped to create COBOL.3
Later, Hopper created the Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL) compiler, a more sophisticated compiler that could comprehend even more English statements. Most computer scientists still use compilers, making the field more approachable and more straightforward to learn.
Government and industry computer scientists collaborated to define the requirements for COBOL, the new programming language. Even though many people contributed to this effort, Hopper’s work was widely recognized for the design and development of COBOL, the creation of compilers for it, and the encouragement of its widespread use. A decade later, COBOL was the “most widely used computer language” globally.3
In addition to being the first distinguished member of the British Computer Society, she was also the first recipient of the Computer Science Man-of-the-Year award. The Legion of Merit in 1973 and the National Medal of Technology, America’s highest technology award, are just two of the many honors Hopper has received.2 Grace Hopper continues to be recognized as one of history’s most brilliant computer scientists, and her accomplishments and goals are still astounding today. The “mother of computer science,” as she is rightfully referred to, Hopper, serves as an example for many other computer scientists.3 Because she had successful careers in business, academia, and the U.S. Navy, while also making history in the field of computers, she is also known as “Amazing Grace.”4
If you found this article interesting, go to BYJU’s FutureSchool blog to read more such articles on the amazing innovations and developmental milestones in the field of computer science.
- If you do something once, people will call it an accident. If you do it twice, they call it a coincidence. But do it a third time and you’ve just… (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2022, from https://libquotes.com/grace-hopper/quote/lbb0r6q
- Computer Pioneers – Grace Brewster Murray Hopper. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2022, from https://history.computer.org/pioneers/hopper.html
- Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper: The Mother of Cobol. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2022, from https://www.lifewire.com/rear-admiral-grace-murray-hopper-5093833
- Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, pioneering computer programmer | Amazing Women In History. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2022, from https://amazingwomeninhistory.com/amazing-grace-hopper-computer-programmer/