While it may not always be highlighted, women have been making much contribution to the field of computer science. Plenty of women have been pioneers in the field and their accomplishments were vital. One of these impressive women was Grace Hopper, an American woman who became one of the most influential computer scientists to date.
Born in New York City on December 9, 1906, Hopper received a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics Vassar College in 1928. After that, she attended Yale where she earned a PhD in Mathematics in 1934. Then, she taught mathematics at Vassar for a while.
In 1943, Hopper was sworn into the US Navy Reserve as many women did at the time. She graduated from training class in 1944 and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard. Then, she served under a programming staff headed by Howard H. Aiken and the pair would write several papers together on the Automated Sequence Controlled Calculator. She requested to join the regular navy but was denied because she was too young. In 1949, she returned to the Harvard Computation Lab to work under a Navy contract.
In 1949, she joined the team developing the UNIVAC 1, the first commercial computer available in the United States. In the following years, Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC computer language spawned the creation of the organization CODASYL which propagated the idea that computer code could be written in something closer to English instead of just numbers and ideas. It was revolutionary and the organization spent years standardizing programming language.
Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group in the Navy's Office of Information Systems Planning from 1967 to 1977 which earned her a promotion to captain in 1973. She also helped to implement the standards for testing computer and components that were assumed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1980. Hopper returned from the Naval Reserve as a Commander in 1966 and was recalled several times. In 1973, she was promoted to Captain and then, by way of special Presidential appointment, was promoted to Rear Admiral, Lower Half. She officially retired in 1986, passing away on January 1, 1992.
Hopper was the person who came up with the term “debugging,” the process whereby computer bugs or glitches are sought out and fixed. She coined the term after discovering an actual moth inside a computer and removing it. Hopper’s contribution to the computer world and the history of the United States was so important that she was known affectionately as “Amazing Grace.” Up to this day, she’s the only computer scientist to have a Navy warship, the USS Hopper, named after her. As a result of her influence and her decorated military career, she remains one of the most important women in US history.