Grace Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was a computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. In 1944, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.
Hopper, who became an associate professor at Vassar, continued to teach until World War II compelled her to join the U.S. Naval Reserve in December 1943 (she opted for the Navy, as it had been her grandfather’s branch of service). She was commissioned as a lieutenant in June 1944. Given her mathematical background, Hopper was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she learned to program a Mark I computer. As her career developed, she worked on UNIVAC while at Remington Rand, and with COBOL, as mentioned above.
While she was working on a Mark II Computer at a US Navy research lab in Dahlgren, Virginia in 1947, her associates discovered a moth stuck in a relay. While neither Hopper nor her crew mentioned the phrase “debugging” in their logs, the case was held as an instance of literal “debugging”, perhaps the first in history. The term bug had been in use for many years in engineering.
Due to an amazing career in the US Navy and computer science, Grace Hopper earned numerous awards to include the National Medal of Technology in 1991, being elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (also 1991), and havinga US Naval vessel, DDG-70, named after her … the USS Hopper.