Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN
Throughout her long and illustrious service to the Navy and the nation, Grace Hopper consistently demonstrated leadership, creativity, and technical competence of the highest order.
Born in 1906, Grace Murray graduated from college in 1928 and by 1934 had earned from Yale University a doctoral degree in mathematics, a real accomplishment for a woman in those days. During World War II, while employed as a mathematics professor at Vasser College, she answered her country's call and joined the United States Naval Reserve. Her first assignment was with the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she worked on some of the Navy's first computers. After the war, the Naval Reserve officer returned to civilian life, eventually joining the Sperry Rand Corporation, one of the computer industry's pioneering firms. During this period, she was instrumental in the creation of the FLOW-MATIC language for the UNIVAC I and UNIVAC II computers.
In 1967, soon after Grace Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve, the Navy decided it could not afford to lose the services of the brilliant officer. She served on active duty for the next two decades.
One of her crowning achievements was to persuade the business world that computer languages could be written in English, enabling firms large and small to compile computerized payroll, billing, and other records. This also helped the Navy improve how it ordered, warehoused, and distributed its supplies and handled many other logistical and administrative functions. She and her colleagues helped develop a common business computer language, known as COBOL.
One of her greatest attributes was the ability to instruct and persuade others about the computer's potential for improving the way people and institutions processed and exploited information. Rear Admiral Hopper, a gifted and entertaining speaker, appeared before hundreds of Navy and civilian groups during her career. To many Americans this admiral came to symbolize the professional excellence of the Navy's officer corps.
Rear Admiral Hopper received numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Naval Ordnance Development Award. In 1986, four years before her death, President Ronald Reagan awarded Hopper the prestigious National Medal of Technology at a ceremony in the White House. But Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, as she informed her biographer, considered her highest award to have been "the privilege and honor of serving very proudly in the United States Navy."