Grace Murray Hopper
1906-1992

What would you think about a person who kept a clock that ran backwards and had numbers that went "backwards"? Does this suggest a person who might be running "backwards"?

The owner of this backwards clock was Grace Hopper, an individual who spent her entire life believing that "conventional solutions are not the only solutions".

Grace Murray Hopper grew up in New York City surrounded by a family that included a civil engineer (grandfather) and her well educated parents. Graces' family believed in the unpopular idea of an education for everyone in the family: Her brother and sister. Grace eventually found herself completing a P.h. D. in mathematics and mathematical Physics at Yale University in 1934.

From here she became a math teacher at Vassar college for the next 12 years. With the outbreak of World War II Grace again became drawn to the unconventional. In spite of her age (35 years) she insisted on joining the war effort. This was the start of a new career in a new kind of science: computer. Her greatest contribution was in the development of ways to help people understand and use computers more successfully. She convinced the new computer industry that computers could do more than just read numbers. Computers could be also used to 'read' words thus creating more uses for computers.

Grace helped create a user friendly computer language so that business people could also benefit from computers. This, in turn, led to a new industry that she predicted would be "the largest industry in the United States."

In spite of the times and her gender Grace Hopper eventually earned the rank of Rear Admiral becoming the first women to do so. In a time considered very conventional, Grace Hopper proved that thinking unconventionally was the key to success.

Contributed by David Leib

Reference:

Dickason, Elizabeth (1992). Looking Back: Grace Murray's Hopper's Younger Years. [online] Available at http://www.norfolk.navy.mil/chips/grace_hopper/youn.htm


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