Grace Murray Hopper
By: Chase Stewart
Birth and Early Life:

Grace Brewster Murray was born on December 9, 1906 in New York City. Her parents names were Walter Fletcher Murray and Mary Campbell Horne Murray. When she was seven years old, she disassembled seven alarm clocks while trying to figure out how they worked. In 1932, Hopper applied to Vassar College, however she failed a Latin exam and was told she must wait another year before entering. When she graduated from Vassar in 1928 Hopper had earned a Bachelor’s degree in math and physics. When she graduated, Hopper decided to join the faculty at Vassar College and taught there as she continued to study math at Yale University. By 1930, Hopper had earned an MA in math and in 1934, she had earned a PhD. In 1930 she married Vincent Foster Hopper and continued to teach until 1943.

In 1943, Hopper enlisted in the Navy. She was 34 years old, married, and, weighing only 105 pounds, she was considered overage and underweight. Despite some people saying that she shouldn’t join, Hopper continued to find a way into the Navy and, in December 1943, she was sworn into the United States Naval Reserve. She trained at Midshipman’s School for Women and finished first in her class. Hopper was first put under Commander Howard Aiken at the Bureau of Ordinance Computation at Harvard. While she was working with him on her first assignment, she became the third person to program the Mark I.

Mark I:

Mark I was the first large-scale automatically sequenced digital computer in the world. This computer was used to calculate the aiming angles of Naval guns in different types of weather. The Mark I was also the first fully automatic computer to be completed. Most of the time, Hopper and her assistants had to monitor and run the system twenty-four hours a day. They spent many hours making written copies and codes for the Mark I, as well as Mark II and Mark III. In 1946 Hopper received the Naval Ordnance Development Award for her work on the Mark series.
The Bug:
While she was working on Mark II, Hopper received credit for creating the term “bug.” When she first said bug she was mentioning a defect in the machinery. However, people at Harvard had been using this term for several years before Hopper said it. The Harvard staff had used the term to talk about problems with their computers, but in this particular case, Hopper and her assistants found a moth in the machinery. The moth had flown through a window and into the machinery, causing the problem. The bug had flown into part of Mark II and had shut down the entire system. Before this happened, people had used “bug" to refer to glitches in the computers. But, Hopper was able to extend the meaning of the word "debug" to include removing the errors in the programming.

In 1945, Hopper’s husband died and, despite not having children, she did not change her name back to Murray. In 1946 Hopper was informed that she was too old to continue to serve in the active service. In 1949, Hopper left Harvard and joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which was sold to Remington Rand in 1950 and then became Sperry Corporation in 1955. She joined Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation as a senior mathematian. When the company introduced the BINAC (Binary Automatic Computer). The BINAC was programmed to use a different code than the one used in the Mark series. While Hopper was helping to produce the BINAC, UNIVAC I AND UNIVAC II, she taught herself how to add, subtract, multiply and divide in octal. Octal is a difficult and different number system that uses a base eight instead of a base ten.

Hopper also made the first A-0 compiler. The compiler was a device that could translate the mathematical code into the machine code. She also made the A-2 compiler, which helped to lay the foundations for programming other languages. After developing the compiler she had an idea. She thought they should program the UNIVAC to recognize english commands. In order to complete this Hopper had to create a B-0 compiler which was later calle FLOW-MATIC. Hopper was able to teach UNIVC I AND UNIVAC II to understand twenty english statements by the end of 1956 using FLOW-MATIC. Hopper and her assistants were able to frame the first basic computer language. They used FLOW-MATIC as their basis while making this new language.

Hopper was forced to retire in 1966 because of her age. However, after 823 attempts to create a payroll plan without Hopper, they finally had to call her back from retirement to help make the computers' languages more standardized. When she returned to the Navy she had to create a new, more standard language which she was able to do. She then created a program that would convert the non-standard languages into the new, standardized version for the people that would need the information in the future.

After she had finished creating this new program for the Navy, Hopper officially retired. In 1983 she was promoted to Commodore by a special request from the president. Two years after she was promoted to Commodore, she became one of the first women to become a Rear Admiral. In 1986, after serving for a totally of forty-three years, Hopper was finally appointed an Admiral. 

On January 1, 1992, Admiral Hopper passed away in her sleep. She did, however receive many honors though out her lifetime. In 1969, she received the Data Processing Management Association awarded her with the first ever, Computer Science Man-of-the-Year Award. She was the first person from the U.S. and the first woman to become a member of the British Computer Society in 1973. There was even a Naval ship named after her. “In September, 1991, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in engineering and technology. However, over all these distinctions, Hopper claimed her work as a teacher as her most important and rewarding accomplishment.” ( She was buried on January 7, 1992 with full Naval honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hopper was always good at math, she was better than most of the others in her class in high school. In college, at Vassar, she was able to show her math skills and she graduated with a BA in math. She loved math enough to continue going to school for it, so she attended Yale University and had her MA in two years and her PhD was earned in another four. Hopper was so good with numbers that she was able to teach herself how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in octal. She also helped to make the first computer and she was able to make programs that would make it easier for the computers to learn the codes and numbers that were needed. She was able to study math and physics at the same time and, by doing so, she helped her career. Although math was important for everything that she made, it was just as important for her to have studied physics. Studying physics helped her to make the objects so that they would actually work.

Interesting Fact:
It was interesting that Hopper used her math skills to help in the Navy and that she helped with the Mark I. I thought it was interesting that she helped with the Mark I because she was a woman and women weren’t allowed to do very much in the past. But, Hopper was able to take a fair amount of credit for producing Mark I. She also was able to make the first A-0, A-2, and B-2 compilers. It was interesting that she made some things in order to make a bigger, better piece of technology.

Major Math Concept:
Hopper helped to make one of the first computers in the world. She worked on it while she was in the Navy and she also got to work on it while she was working at Harvard, but when she left Harvard she got to learn about new projects, she also got a chance to really use the compilers while she made the other objects.
The Mark I once it is completed