A 1962 Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) Fellow “for contributions in the field of automatic programming,” Grace Hopper was one of the most important computer programmers in the pioneering era of computing.
Born Grace Brewster Murray in New York City, she received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Vassar College in 1928 (Phi Beta Kappa). Hopper earned a master’s and doctorate in mathematics from Yale in 1930 and 1934. After returning to Vassar as an instructor from 1933 to 1943, Hopper decided to join the America military’s World War II efforts. She joined the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Service) program in December 1943 and was commissioned a lieutenant early the next year, taking an assignment at the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University.
After the war, Hopper stayed on as a research fellow at the Harvard Computation Laboratory. In 1949, she went to work for the Eckert-Mauchly Corporation, and in 1952, became Director of Automatic Programming for the UNIVAC Division of Sperry Rand (which had acquired the Eckert-Mauchly company). Hopper was one of the originators of high-level programming languages, completing one of the first compilers in 1952.