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CHIPS Articles: Rear Adm. Grace Hopper — Accomplishments and Honors

Rear Adm. Grace Hopper — Accomplishments and Honors
By CHIPS Magazine - June 27, 2011
Rear Adm. Grace Hopper was a pioneer in the field of computer science and for more than four decades was at the forefront of computing development both in the U.S. Navy and in industry. Despite the many astounding technology advances that have occurred since her death, she remains admired worldwide and ever popular with CHIPS readers.

Grace Brewster Murray was born Dec. 9, 1906, in New York, New York. She attended Vassar College, graduating in 1928 with a BA in mathematics and physics, Phi Beta Kappa, and received a Vassar College Fellowship. While she was an instructor at Vassar, Hopper attended Yale University, where she received the degrees of MA in 1930, and Ph.D. in 1934, together with election to Sigma Xi and two Sterling Scholarships. She was one of four women in a doctoral program of 10 students, and her doctorate in mathematics was a rare accomplishment in its day, according to Vassar.

In 1930 Grace Murray married Vincent Foster Hopper. He died in 1945 during World War II, and they had no children.

While at Vassar as an assistant in mathematics in 1931, Hopper became successively, instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor. During this time, she received a Vassar Faculty Fellowship and studied at New York University between 1941 and 1942.

In December 1943, she entered the United States Naval Reserve and attended the UNSR Midshipman’s School-W at Northampton, Massachusetts, determined to join the war effort. Upon graduation, she was commissioned lieutenant (junior grade) and ordered to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard. Here, she learned to program the first large-scale digital computer, Mark I.

In 1946, she resigned from her leave-of-absence from Vassar and joined the Harvard Faculty as a Research Fellow in Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics at the Computation Laboratory where work continued on the Mark and Mark II computers for the Navy. In 1946, she received the Naval Ordnance Development Award.

In 1949, she joined as senior mathematician, the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. in Philadelphia, then building the UNIVAC I, the first commercial large-scale electronic computer. She remained with the company as a senior programmer when it was bought by Remington Rand and later merged into the Sperry Corporation. She was appointed systems engineer, director for automatic programming in 1952 when she published the first paper on compilers. In 1964, she became staff scientist, systems programming. She retired from the UNIVAC Division of the Sperry Rand Corp. in December 1971, while on military leave.

After retiring from the Naval Reserve at age 60 with the rank of commander in 1966, Hopper was recalled and assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations staff as director, Navy Programming Languages Group (OP 911F). She was promoted to captain in 1973, commodore in 1983 and rear admiral in 1985. Hopper last served as Special Assistant to the Commander, Naval Data Automation Command until 1986 when she retired as a rear admiral.

At the time of her retirement, at 79 years of age, Hopper was the oldest commissioned officer in the United States Navy. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and remained active in industry and education until several months before her death New Year’s Day 1992. She was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Hopper published more than 50 papers and articles about software and programming languages. Her interest in applications programming sent her to the first meeting of CODASYL with a strong interest in the development of COBOL (common business-oriented language). She also served on the ANSI Xe.4 Committee for the standardization of computer languages and the CODASYL Executive Committee.

The admiral knew that the key to computing advancements was the development and improvement of programming languages — languages that could be understood and used by people who were neither mathematicians nor computer experts. There were many skeptics that this could be achieved. It took several years for her to demonstrate that this idea was feasible, but she persevered.

Hopper served, starting in 1959, first as visiting lecturer; in 1962, as visiting assistant professor; in 1962, as visiting associate professor; and in 1973, as adjunct professor of engineering at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1961, she was appointed professorial lecturer in management science at George Washington University and served until 1978.

In 1962, Hopper was elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); received the honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from the Newark College of Engineering; a Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from Yale University; and was made a Fellow of the Association of Computer Programmers and Analysts.

In 1963, she received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the C. W. Post College of Long Island University, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering, presented with the Legion of Merit by the Navy, and was selected as a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.

In 1964, she was selected to receive the 1964 Achievement Award by the Society of Women Engineers.

In 1969, the Data Processing Management Association selected her as the first Computer Sciences “Man-of-the-Year.” The American Federation of Information Processing Societies gave her the Harry Goode Memorial Award in 1970.

In 1971, the UNIVAC Division of the Sperry Corp. initiated the Grace Murray Hopper Award for young computer personnel to be awarded annually by the Association for Computer Machinery.

In 1974, she received the honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, from the University of Pennsylvania at the 50th Anniversary Convocation honoring the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

In 1976, she received the Distinguished Member Award of the Washington, D. C. Chapter of the Association for Computer Machinery, and an honorary Doctor of Science from Pratt Institute. In 1979, she received the W. Wallace McDowell Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

In 1980, Hopper received the Meritorious Service Award from the Navy; an honorary Doctor of Science from Bucknell University, Arcadia University, Loyola University, Chicago, and Southern Illinois State University; and an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from George Washington University, Washington, D. C.

Hopper was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Data Processing Management Association, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Franklin Institute, the U. S. Naval Institute, and the International Oceanographic Foundation.

As the co-inventor of COBOL, Hopper has been referred to as “The Grand Lady of Software” and “Grandma COBOL” — and because of her many extraordinary achievements — “Amazing Grace.”

Hopper’s legendary standing has much to do with her persistence and absolute belief in the limitless power of computing technology and her impatience with bureaucracy. She is remembered for her now famous quip, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

In Admiral Hopper’s opinion, the greatest obstacle to innovation is taking the stance, “We've always done it this way” — and heaven help anyone who uttered that thought in her presence.

Hopper loved young people and engaging with young naval officers and students, speaking at engineering forums, colleges, universities and computer seminars, encouraging and sharing her knowledge and experience throughout her life.

The admiral could spellbind an audience with examples of the computing revolution and her uncanny ability to predict the trends of the future. Admiral Hopper proposed that a wider audience could use the computer if it could be made both programmer-friendly and application-friendly. During her lifetime many of her predictions were realized as industry built more powerful, more compact machines, and developed the operating systems and software that allowed average individuals to own and operate a personal computer.

Some of Hopper’s other innovative ideas include: using computers to track the lifecycle of crop-eating locusts, and computers built for weather forecasting, managing water reserves, and tracking the waves at the bottom of the ocean. Hopper envisioned that in the near future, children would be doing their homework and learning on computers.

Dec. 9, 2013, on the occasion of what would have been her 107th birthday, Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper was featured as a Google doodle.

Remarkable, charismatic and inventive, Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, best known for her advancements in computer programming and data processing, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony Nov. 22, 2016, demonstrating her enduring legacy.

"If Wright is flight, and Edison is light, then Hopper is code," Obama said of the innovator who he noted was a gutsy and colorful woman who, when she joined the Navy was 15-pounds below military health standards, yet attained a long and prosperous career.

While Admiral Grace Murray Hopper received many awards and honors during her lifetime, she often said that she was most proud of her service in the U.S. Navy.

Sources

Naval History and Heritage Command - https://www.history.navy.mil/ and CHIPS Magazine, enter in search engine “Grace Hopper” for related articles.

Did you know USS Hopper (DDG 70) is named in honor of Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper?

Rear Adm. Grace Hopper Remembered — Honored with a Google Doodle Dec. 9, 2013, Rear Adm. Grace Hopper was a Navy pioneer in the computer technology field. Watch this video to learn more about her story: http://www.navy.mil/viewVideo.asp?id=19047.

See also the Yale University and Vassar College entries regarding Hopper, such as: http://cs-www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/hopper-story.html.

Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper Awards and Honors

Professional Activities
Instructor to Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Vassar College - 1931-43
Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Barnard College - 1943
Mathematical Officer, U. S. Navy, Bureau of Ordnance - 1944-46
Research Fellow in Engineering Sciences and Applied Physics, Computation Laboratory, Harvard University - 1946-49
Senior Mathematician, Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation -1949-52
Systems Engineer, Director of Automatic Programming Development, UNIVAC Division of the Sperry Corporation - 1952-64
Visiting Lecturer to Adjunct Professor, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania - 1959
Staff Scientist, Systems Programming, UNIVAC Division of Sperry Corporation (on military leave 1967-71 – retired 1971)
Professorial Lecturer in Management Sciences, George Washington University - 1971-78
U.S. Naval Reserve - 1943-1966, 1967-1986

Awards
Phi Beta Kappa - 1928
Sigma Xi - 1934
Naval Ordnance Development Award - 1946
Fellow, IEEE - 1962
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science - 1963
Society of Women Engineers, SWE Achievement Award - 1964
IEEE Philadelphia Section Achievement Award - 1968
Data Processing Management Association, Computer Sciences “Man-of-the-Year” Award - 1969
Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Honorary Member, Texas A&M, Alpha Chapter - 1970
American Mothers Committee, Science Achievement Award - 1970
American Federation of Information Processing Societies-Harry Goode Memorial Award - 1970
Honorary Doctor of Engineering, Newark College of Engineering - 1972
Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, Yale University - 1972
Fellow, Association of Computer Programmers and Analysts - 1972
Epsilon Delta Pi, Honorary Member, SUNY Potsdam Chapter - 1973
Honorary Doctor of Science, C. W. Post College of Long Island University - 1973
Elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering - 1973
Legion of Merit - 1973
Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society - 1973
Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Pennsylvania - 1974
Distinguished Member Award, Washington, D. C. Chapter, ACM - 1976
Honorary Doctor of Science, Pratt Institute - 1976
W. Wallace McDowell Award, IEEE Computer Society - 1979
Honorary Doctor of Science, Linkoping University, Sweden - 1980
Honorary Doctor of Science, Bucknell University - 1980
Honorary Doctor of Science, Arcadia University, Nova Scotia - 1980
Meritorious Service Medal - 1980
Honorary Doctor of Science, Loyola University, Chicago - 1981
Honorary Doctor of Science, Southern Illinois State University - 1981
Honorary Doctor of Public Service, George Washington University, Washington, D. C. - 1981
Presidential Medal of Freedom – Nov. 22, 2016 (posthumously)

Other Activities:
Association for Computing Machinery
Data Processing Management Association
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Society of Women Engineers
British Computer Society
Association of Computer Programmers and Analysts
The Franklin Institute
International Oceanographic Foundation
Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association
The Planetary Society
New York Academy of Sciences
The Oceanic Society
American Institute of Industrial Engineers
Member, CODASYL Executive Committee Member, American Management Association Management Systems Division Council
Member, National Academy of Engineering
Member, 1975, IEEE Spectrum Editorial Board

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper biographical files.

Updated March 2017

Lt. j.g. Grace Brewster Hopper working at the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., January 1946. Photo courtesy of the Defense Visual Information Center.
Lt. j.g. Grace Brewster Hopper working at the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., January 1946. Photo courtesy of the Defense Visual Information Center.


Lt. j.g. Grace Brewster Hopper (seated second from right) with Cmdr. Howard H. Aiken (seated center), who developed the first large scale digital computer, officially called the IBM automatic sequence controlled calculator, more commonly called the Harvard Mark I. The posed photograph, with other members of the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project, was taken in front of the Mark I computer. Hopper started as the first programmer in 1944 on the Mark I (IBM ASCC). As a programmer, she used the Mark I to compute firing tables for weapons and then wrote them into a series of instructions for the computer. In 1946 she published a book, “A Manual of Operations for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.” Hopper continued to work on the Mark II and Mark III. Photo taken at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., January 1944. Photo courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center.
Lt. j.g. Grace Brewster Hopper (seated second from right) with Cmdr. Howard H. Aiken (seated center), who developed the first large scale digital computer, officially called the IBM automatic sequence controlled calculator, more commonly called the Harvard Mark I. The posed photograph, with other members of the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project, was taken in front of the Mark I computer. Hopper started as the first programmer in 1944 on the Mark I (IBM ASCC). As a programmer, she used the Mark I to compute firing tables for weapons and then wrote them into a series of instructions for the computer. In 1946 she published a book, “A Manual of Operations for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.” Hopper continued to work on the Mark II and Mark III. Photo taken at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., January 1944. Photo courtesy of Defense Visual Information Center.

The Mark I. Photo courtesy of the Computer Science Department of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
The Mark I. Photo courtesy of the Computer Science Department of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Capt. Grace Hopper, head of the Navy Programming Language Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP 911F), discusses a phase of her work with a staff member, August 1976. Photographed by PH2 David C. MacLean. Note DECpack computer equipment at the right. Official U.S. Navy photograph from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Capt. Grace Hopper, head of the Navy Programming Language Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OP 911F), discusses a phase of her work with a staff member, August 1976. Photographed by PH2 David C. MacLean. Note DECpack computer equipment at the right. Official U.S. Navy photograph from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Rear Adm. Hopper giving her famous nanosecond example during a lecture at the Navy Micro Conference.
Rear Adm. Hopper giving her famous nanosecond example during a lecture at the Navy Micro Conference.

Retired U.S. Naval Reserve Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 1987. University President William S. Gaither is presenting the degree. Rear Admiral Hopper, a pioneer in electronic computer development and programming languages, joined the Naval Reserve in 1943. She retired in 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph.
Retired U.S. Naval Reserve Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 1987. University President William S. Gaither is presenting the degree. Rear Admiral Hopper, a pioneer in electronic computer development and programming languages, joined the Naval Reserve in 1943. She retired in 1986. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph.
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