WOMEN PIONEERS IN
the creation and development of the computer industry was dominated by
were nevertheless a few women pioneers in this field, for example:
Clarke filed a patent for a "graphical
contributed to simplifying and reducing the time spent in laborious
calculations in solving problems in the design and operation of electrical
Murray Hopper (1906-1992)
was called "Amazing Grace" because of her outstanding
achievement in the computer field.
One of her contributions is the invention of COBOL, the first
user-friendly business software program, which is still in use.
Murray Hopper, born on December 9, 1906 in New York City, was one of the
great visionary pioneers of computer science and software engineering.
By the time she died in 1992 many in the computer industry
considered her to be the world's most famous programmer and her
outstanding contributions to computer science benefited academia,
industry, and the military.
Her work spanned programming languages, software development
concepts, compiler verification, and data processing.
Her early recognition of the potential for commercial applications
of computers, and her leadership and perseverance in making this vision a
reality, paved the way for modern data processing.
from Vassar College with a BA in mathematics and physics she joined the
Vassar faculty in 1928.
While teaching at Vassar, she earned an MA in mathematics at Yale
University, followed in 1934 by a PhD - a rare accomplishment at the time.
A remarkable woman she believed that "we've always done it
that way" was not necessarily a good reason to continue to do so.
married Vincent Foster Hopper in 1930 and remained at Vassar as an
associate professor until 1943, when she resigned to join the Navy WAVES
(Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service). Commissioned as a
lieutenant, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project
at Harvard University, where she worked at Harvard's Cruft Laboratories on
the Mark series of computers. She became the third person to program the
Mark I and subsequently received the Naval Ordnance Development Award for
her pioneering applications programming success on the Mark I, Mark II,
and Mark III computers.
the war she went on to work as a researcher and senior mathematician at
the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. and the Sperry Corporation.
As Director of Automatic Programming, in 1952 she published the
first paper on compilers one of her best known contributions to computing.
The compiler being an intermediate programme that translates
English language instructions into the language of the target computer.
Until then all programming used assembler
language. Grace Hopper's vision was the creation of a programming
language closer to ordinary language so that it could be used by
non-technical people conceptualising the computer would be used more
widely if there were tools that were both programmer-friendly and
Her work on compilers and on making machines understand ordinary
language instructions led to the development of COBAL, the business
Much of her work provided the foundations of digital computing such
as subroutines, formula translation, code optimization and symbolic
During her lifetime she published over fifty papers on programming
languages and software.
1967 she was called back into active duty with the Navy to oversee the US
Navy's standardisation of COBOL and other languages.
In 1985 she was promoted to rear admiral.
Upon her retirement from the Navy in 1986 she immediately became a
senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, remaining there for
several years, working well into her eighties.
Hopper received recognition for her accomplishments but always felt her
greatest contribution had been "all the young people I've
In 1971, the Sperry Corporation initiated an annual award in her
name to honour young computer professionals for their significant
contributions to computer science. In 1973, she became the first woman of
any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer
died in her sleep in Arlington, Virginia on January 1, 1992 and was buried
with full Naval honours at Arlington National Cemetery.