August 12, 2022

U.S. Veterans

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#HonoringVets: Grace Hopper

2 min read

Navy Veteran Grace Hopper was a rear admiral of the United States Navy and an innovator in the realm of computer science. She earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale and became a professor of mathematics at Vassar College before deciding to serve during World War II. In 1943 Hopper was sworn in to the Naval Reserve and received her commission as a lieutenant, junior grade. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard, where she served as one of the first programmers for the Mark I computer, which became instrumental to the war effort.

After World War II, Hopper started working on the team developing the UNIVAC I, one of the first commercial computers in the United States. She also spent years pursuing her idea of creating a programming language using only English words, and in 1957 she and another team created FLOW-MATIC, the first data processing language based on English. FLOW-MATIC would influence the creation of COBOL, a computer language still widely in use today. Hopper would continue to serve as a consultant and speaker on computer technologies for much of her life.

Hopper was forced to retire from the Naval Reserve in 1966 after turning 60 but was recalled in 1967 to help the Navy standardize their multiple computer languages and programs. She retired again in 1971, but was asked to return in 1972. After more than 40 years of service Hopper retired in 1986 as the Navy’s oldest active duty commissioned officer and one of its few female admirals. During her lifetime, she was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.

We honor her service.

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