By Commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet Public Affairs
You may have noticed that one of the U.S. Navy’s own is featured in today’s Google doodle.
Yes, indeed, it features Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper on the occasion of what would have been her 107th birthday.
Hopper, who was a leader in the field of computer programming, was commissioned a U.S. Navy Reserve lieutenant (junior grade) in 1944 and retired after a distinguished career as a rear admiral in 1986.
“She changed the lives of everyone in the computer industry by developing the Bomarc system, later called COBOL (common-business-oriented language). COBOL made it possible for computers to respond to words rather than numbers,” wrote Elizabeth Dickason in the Department of the Navy’s CIO publication, CHIPS Magazine (CHIPS 7, no. 2), in April 1992.
“Hopper often jokingly explained, ‘It really came about because I couldn’t balance my checkbook,’” according to Dickason’s article.
“Jokingly” because she did earn a Ph.D. in mathematics after all.
“She’s also credited with coining the term ‘bug’ when she traced an error in the Mark II [computer] to a moth trapped in a relay. The bug was carefully removed and taped to a daily log book. Since then, whenever a computer has a problem, it’s referred to as a bug,” Dickason explained.
Her legacy lives on around the world, across the Navy, and at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet.
“We remain indebted to Admiral Hopper for leading the way in the computer programming field for our Navy and our country,” said Rear Adm. Jan E. Tighe, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet. “She was an inspiration while she served and she continues to inspire today.”
Hopper was born in New York City on December 9, 1906, and graduated from Vassar College in 1928. She received a PhD in Mathematics from Yale University in 1934.
She was a member of the Vassar faculty from 1931 to 1943, when she joined the Naval Reserve in 1944, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Commissioned a lieutenant (junior grade) in 1944, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance and immediately became involved in the development of the then-embryonic electronic computer. Over more than four decades that followed, she was on the forefront of computer and programming language progress.
Leaving active duty after the war’s end, Dr. Hopper was a member of the Harvard University faculty and from 1949 on was employed in private industry.
She retained her Naval Reserve affiliation, attaining the rank of commander before retiring at the end of 1966.
However, in August 1967, Cmdr.Hopper was recalled to active duty and assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations’ staff as Director, Navy Programming Languages Group.
She was promoted to captain in 1973; commodore in 1983; and rear admiral in 1985, a year before she retired from the Naval service.
She remained active in industry and education until her death on Jan. 1, 1992.
Did you know USS Hopper (DDG 70) is named in honor of Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper?