Grace Hopper


Two fun things you may not know: First, computer bugs are so named because an actual one — a moth — caused one of the earliest prototypes to malfunction. Second, the person who coined the term was a woman — one who broke though several glass ceilings.

Grace Hopper was both a pioneering computer scientist and a US Navy Admiral. She helped devise history’s first commercial electronic computer as well as an early programming language called COBOL (common-business-oriented language) still in use today, earning the nickname "Grandma COBOL.”

Hopper worked on the first large-scale electronic calculator, the Mark I, during World War II. She retired from the navy with the rank of commander in 1966, but she was recalled to active duty the following year to help standardize the navy’s computer languages. At the age of 79, she was the oldest officer on active U.S. naval duty when she retired again in 1986.

Grace Hopper was elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (1962); she was named the first computer science “Man” of the Year by the Data Processing Management Association (1969); and she was awarded the National Medal of Technology (1991). She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2016. We have so much to thank Grace Hopper for. Yet as far as she was concerned, she was just doing her job.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’
— Grace Hopper

Who’s Your History Hero?

Do you know someone who broke, or is breaking, through glass ceilings? Nominate him or her for the History Hero BLAST here!