Famous Women Inventors

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

COBOL Computer Language

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

Inventor Grace Murray Hopper was a curious child. At the age of seven, she dismantled her alarm clock to figure out how it worked, but was unable to reassemble it. By the time her mother figured out what she had been up to, the young Grace Hopper had gone through seven clocks in the house. This intellectual curiousity would later play an integral part in earning Hopper a place among the ranks of the most famous women inventors.

As she grew up, Grace's parents encouraged her to pursue her educational ambitions. At Vassar College, she obtained a B.A. in mathematics and physics. She continued her education at Yale University by completing a masters and Ph.D. in mathematics. She then returned to Vassar to teach.

During World War II, Hopper joined the Navy and was sworn into the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943. After training, she was commissioned as a lieutenant and assigned to the Bureau of Ordinance Computation Project at Harvard University. She became the third person to program the Harvard Mark I computer. Much like her clocks, disassembling it and figuring out its operating processes was a challenge that she really enjoyed.

Hopper's naval duties ended a year after the war, and she became a senior programmer with Remington Rand, where she worked on the first large-scale commercial computer – UNIVAC. She became Director of Automatic programming in 1952 and subsequently oversaw the company's endeavor to produce specifications for a common business language. From 1959 to 1961, Hopper lead the team that invented COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language), the first user-friendly business computer software program.

Later, Hopper invested a great deal of time advocating validation procedures to bring about the international standardization of computer languages. She won numerous awards for her career as a famous woman inventor, including the National Medal of Technology, which was presented to her in 1991 by President George Bush. By the time she passed away on January 1, 1992, Dr. Hopper had received honorary degrees from thirty universities.

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