In the 50s Hopper invented key software technologies that paved the way for today’s computer languages,
Google’s latest doodle celebrates the life of Grace Hopper, one of the great pioneers of the computer age who is widely credited as being the “mother” of the Cobol computer language.
Born as Grace Brewster Murray in New York in 1906, she later studied at Vassar College and in 1934 became the first woman in Yale University’s 233-year history to graduate with a doctorate in maths.
She married the New York University professor, Vincent Foster Hopper, in 1930 and retained his surname after their divorce in 1945.
During the war, she was involved in US military research and worked on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, an “electronic brain” which calculated rocket trajectories and was used by the Manhattan Project scientists to build the atomic bomb.
It was in the 50s that Hopper pressed ahead with the pioneering work that would become central to her legacy, by inventing key software technologies that paved the way for today’s computer languages.
Along with genius for programming, Hopper’s formidable powers of persuasion were crucial in prompting government agencies and corporations to agree on a common business programming language: Cobol.
It grew out of her role in 1959 as a technical consultant to the Conference on Data Systems Languages, which brought together computer experts from industry and government. Hopper believed that programs should be written in a language that was close to English rather than in machine code or languages close to machine code.
As she continued her work, Hopper served as the director of the US Navy Programming Languages Group in the Navy’s Office of Information Systems Planning from 1967 to 1977 and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1973. Despite retiring in 1963, she was recalled to active duty and travelled widely on international lecturing tours, rising to the rank of rear admiral.
Hopper died in January 1992 and was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
However, her work remains an enduring part of everyday life, where a Cobol program will handle at least some of the work involved in transactions ranging from ATM cash withdrawals to filing of taxes.
Posted By Mantosh Pal
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