Grace Hopper was born on December 9, 1906, in New York City. She studied math and physics at Vassar college until her graduation in 1928, and she received her master’s in mathematics from Yale University in 1930. She began teaching at Vassar a year later. Hopper became one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1934.
After the United States entered the Second World War, Hopper felt compelled to serve her country, so she joined the United States Navy in 1943. Following her training, she was commissioned as a lieutenant and was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Program at Harvard where she learned to program a Mark I computer. After the war, she remained a reserve officer and worked with the Mark II and Mark III computers. Although she did not invent it, she helped popularize the term “computer bug” after a moth flew into the Mark II and shorted the system.
Hopper quit working for the Navy in 1949 and took a job at the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation and later Remington Rand. During this time, she helped oversee the production of the UNIVAC computer. Later, she worked on the complier that would be the precursor for Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL).
In 1966 Hopper officially retired from the Navy, but she was recalled to active duty shortly after. She continued to work for the Navy for 19 more years, during which she helped standardize communication between different computer languages. When she retired from the Navy in 1986 at the age of 79, she was the oldest serving officer in the United States and a rear admiral. In 1991, Hopper became the first woman to ever receive the National Medal of Technology. On January 1, 1992, Grace Hopper died in Arlington, Virginia at the age of 85.
After her death, the Navy named a guided missile destroyer USS Hopper in her honor in 1997. The University of Missouri opened a computer museum on campus in 2004 and nicknamed it “Grace’s Place.” In 2013 on her birthday, Google featured a “Google doodle” of her for the day. In 2016, President Barack Obama posthumously honored Hopper with the Medal of Freedom.