History's Great Engineers: Grace Murray Hopper by Jennifer Gee

Grace Murray Hopper is a candidate that should be inducted into the Engineering Hall of Fame. As a Rear Admiral for the United States Army and a most respected pioneer in the computer engineering field, Hopper invented COBOL, the first universal programming language, and the first computer compiler. As an early engineer, Hopper was the third person to program the Mark I, the world's first large-scale digital computer. Hopper applied her computer engineering knowledge to the navy, serving during World War II as an around-the-clock engineer to operate Mark I, a computer used to accurately aim naval artillery. In 1952 Hopper developed the first compiler for the limited programming language FORTRAN. Hopper took computers to a higher level because her compiler allowed computers to run programs in addition to doing simple arithmetic. Though many were incredulous at first, Hopper's capable compiler transformed the way computers were viewed. Perhaps the most alluring attribute of Hopper's engineering genius is that she is a role model for all women engineers; she perseveres in reaching her goals, and she uses her imagination to lead her through her endeavors. Hopper was analytical in the conception of COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), as she had the foresight to realize that the world needed an understandable, universal programming language compatible on all computers. Hopper's COBOL was readily accepted as the premiere programming language because of its easy-to-understand, English-like commands. One can obviously see that Hopper's enthusiasm for engineering goes far above the call of duty. Even as she neared her nineties, Hopper spent her time as the Senior Consultant for the Digital Equipment Corporation and has been an inspiration to many as a guest lecturer at major universities. On top of her many inventions, her spirit can be captured in a single word--"bug." The word "bug" was coined by Hopper when she discovered that a fluttering moth was causing functional problems in the Mark II computer. Winning the Data Processing Management Association "Computer Science Man-of-the-Year" award, it is obvious that Hopper has paved a memorable path through an engineering field laden with men. Along with many other awards, she has earned the nation's most prestigious engineering honor, the National Medal of Technology. The honor of being in the Engineering Hall of Fame should not escape Grace Murray Hopper, "grandmother of the computer age," as she is a major engineering landmark. ------ Citations: Billings, Charlene W. Grace Hopper: Navy Admiral and Computer Pioneer. Hillside, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1989. Grace Murray Hopper: Pioneer Computer Scientist. Online. Internet. San Diego Supercomputer Center. 2003 January 13. .