Women’s History Month: Grace Hopper

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (née Murray December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first linkers. Hopper was the first to devise the theory of machine-independent programming languages, and the FLOW-MATIC programming language she created using this theory was later extended to create COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today.

In accordance with Navy attrition regulations, Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of commander at age 60 at the end of 1966. She was recalled to active duty in August 1967 for a six-month period that turned into an indefinite assignment. She again retired in 1971 but was again asked to return to active duty in 1972. She was promoted to captain in 1973 by Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr.

Afte Representative Philip Crane saw her on a March 1983 segment of 60 Minutes, he championed H.J.Res. 341, a joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives, which led to her promotion on 15 December 1983 to commodore by special Presidential appointment by President Ronald Reagan. She remained on active duty for several years beyond mandatory retirement by special approval of Congress. Effective November 8, 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral (lower half) and Hopper became one of the Navy’s few female admirals.

Following a career that spanned more than 42 years, Admiral Hopper took retirement from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to commemorate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the Department of Defense.

At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and had her retirement ceremony aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy (188 years, nine months and 23 days). (Admirals William D. Leahy, Chester W. Nimitz, Hyman G. Rickover and Charles Stewart were the only other officers in the Navy’s history to serve on active duty at a higher age. Leahy and Nimitz served on active duty for life due to their promotions to the rank of fleet admiral.)

Alma materVassar College (BA)
Yale University (MS, Ph.D.)
Military career
Place of burialArlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1943–1966, 1967–1971, 1972–1986
Rank Rear admiral (lower half)
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
 Legion of Merit
 Meritorious Service Medal
 American Campaign Medal
 World War II Victory Medal
 National Defense Service Medal
 Armed Forces Reserve Medal with two Hourglass Devices
 Naval Reserve Medal
 Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumous)

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