Grace Murray Hopper

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The 1985 commencement speech at the College of William and Mary was delivered by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Hopper completed her undergraduate work at Vassar College before going on to earn a Master’s Degree in mathematics and physics from Yale in 1930 and later enlisting in the United States Naval Reserve. A trailblazer in the field of computer science, she became the first programmer for the Navy’s Mark I computer, a technological marvel capable of storing seventy-two words and performing three calculations every second. She continually pushed for innovation with computers and produced her most recognized technological contribution, COBOL (common-business-oriented language), which allowed computers to respond to words instead of numbers in 1959. During the course of her work for the Navy, Hopper popularized the term “debugging” after she fixed a malfunctioning computer by removing a moth from the circuitry. She retired from the Navy in 1971 and was called to duty again and promoted to Captain the following year. Congressman Philip Crane introduced a bill to the House of Representatives to elevate Hopper to the status of flag officer. After receiving the rank of Commodore, she was promoted to Rear Admiral. In light of her stellar career and accomplishments it is no wonder that she earned the nick-name “Amazing Grace.”


Material in the Special Collections Research Center

  • Photos from 1985 commencement ceremony in University Archives Photograph Collection; Box 151; Folder 16

References

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Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

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