Who was Grace Hopper?
Grace Hopper was born and raised in New York/New Jersey in 1906 where she spent most of her youth. She went onto earn her B.A in mathematics and physics from Vassar College in 1928, then pursue her masters and Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University.
She taught mathematics at Vassar College as an associate professor until she enlisted to join the U.S. Navy to help in the war effort during World War II. Although she was rejected multiple times before, the U.S. military was in need of brilliant minds for the war effort. So, she was eventually accepted by the U.S. Navy to serve in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) which was part of the U.S. Navy Reserve.
After serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve until she was 60, she retired with a rank of commodore. However, she was called into active duty multiple times afterward her first retirement gaining more accolades.
Grace Hopper retired for the final time with the rank of a Rear Admiral in 1986 at the age of 79 and her service to the U.S. Navy spanned more than 42 years. This makes her one of the few female admirals in the U.S. Navy which is an astounding accomplishment of its own.
How is she important in tech?
Aside from Grace Hopper’s huge accomplishments as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, she had an immense contribution to the tech world.
Prior to Grace Hopper, there was a strong belief that computers can only do computations like arithmetics. However, she thought different so she wanted to create a programming language written in English that a computer can read. This led to a development of the first compiler called A-0. She then released some of the first compiled programming languages like MATH-MATIC and FLOW-MATIC.
This was a huge leap in computer programming, but it was only the beginning.
The next leap came with the programming language called COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) which was based on FLOW-MATIC . COBOL was quickly adapted into numerous businesses and Grace Hopper took a huge part in the initial development of the language and creating some of the standardization.
COBOL isn’t a programming language that most programmers nowadays learn or even know about. You may ask: Then, why do we talk about it?
According to some research by Reuters, COBOL is responsible for 70–80% of the active code in production in the world with 220 billion lines of code, powering 95% of the ATM swipes, and 80% of the in-person transactions. Whether you believe in those stats or not, these are mind-boggling numbers which shows the impact that Grace Hopper has even in the modern world.