Grace Murray Hopper

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Grace Murray Hopper

Grace Brewster Murray was born on December 9, 1906 in New York City. In 1928 she graduated from Vassar College with a BA in mathematics and physics and joined the Vassar faculty. While an instructor at Vassar, she continued her studies in mathematics at Yale University, where she earned an MA in 1930 and a PhD in 1934. She was one of four women in a doctoral program of ten students, and her doctorate in mathematics was a rare accomplishment in its day. (cs.yale.edu/-tap/files/hopper.stoyr.html/Grace Murray Hopper) Hopper wanted to join the military as soon as the United States entered World War II. However at 34 she was too old to enlist, and as a mathematics professor, her job was considered essential to the war effort. She was determined to join the Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant after attending Midshipman’s School. Because of her mathematical background, Hopper was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at the Cruft Laboratories at Harvard University, and upon her arrival at Cruft, she began working with Howard Aiken on the Mark I computer, America’s first programmable digital computer. She embraced the challenge of the Mark I, and could hardly wait to disassemble it and figure it out. She became the third person to program the Mark I. (thocp.net/biographies/hopper_grace.html) The Mark I was the first digital computer to be programmed sequentially. The complex code of machine language could be easily misread or incorrectly written. To reduce the number of programming errors, Hopper and her colleagues collected programs that were free of error and generated a catalogue of subroutines that could be used to develop new programs. By this time, the Mark II had been built. Aiken's team used the two computers side by side, effectively achieving an early instance of multiprocessing. After the war, at age 40, Hopper remained in the Navy Reserves and stayed on at the Harvard Computational Laboratory as a research fellow,...
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