Grace Murray Hopper

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The 1985 commencement speech at William & 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


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The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.