Grace Hopper, Trailblazer for Women and Computing

by | Sep 25, 2023

Have you ever looked at your computer or cell phone screen and wondered where it all started? How did we transition from books and letters to streaming Netflix series and instant text messaging?

Exploring the evolution of technology, one name stands out: Grace Hopper, a pioneer of the first coding languages, the inventor of the first compiler, and a programmer for the world’s first digital computer.

Not to mention, she was also a Navy Rear Admiral, one of the many positions she held while being a trailblazer for Women in Computing.

Grace Hopper - Computing pioneer, Navy Admiral, COBOL innovator

Title: Grace Hopper at Univac I console » Image Credits: Computer History Museum, Catalog Number: 102741216

Rising in the Ranks

Born in 1906, she defied gender barriers to become an icon in computer science. After earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Vassar College in 1928, Grace Hopper continued her studies at Yale University, where she obtained a master’s degree in mathematics in 1930 and a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1934. Then, after over a decade of being a math instructor at Vassar, she made a career shift during World War II, joining the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Her first assignment was at Harvard University, programming the Mark I, the world’s first large-scale digital computer that could automatically sequence tasks. Hopper and her team invested numerous hours inputting codes for Mark I and its follow-ups, Mark II and III. In 1946, she received the Naval Ordnance Development Award for her remarkable contributions to the Mark series.

Translating code with COBOL

In 1950, she developed the groundbreaking A-0 compiler, the first-ever compiler, translating mathematical code into machine code. Undeterred by skeptics, she created the B-0 compiler (FLOW-MATIC) in 1952. This innovation laid the foundation for COBOL, a universal computer language established in 1959.

At Adaptigent, our Fujitsu NetCOBOL compiler continues Grace Hopper’s legacy. It offers a structured COBOL development environment, aligning with her vision of efficient programming. NetCOBOL empowers developers to streamline processes and modernize COBOL applications.

In 1983, a year after Adaptigent was founded, Hopper was promoted to the Rank of Commodore at the president’s request. Two short years later, she became the first woman to become a Navy Rear Admiral.

Enduring legacy

Grace Hopper’s impact transcended her naval career. She received accolades like the first Computer Science Man-of-the-Year Award and became the first woman Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1973. Her legacy endures through events like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, taking place this week and dating back to 1994.

Her contributions to technology continue to inspire. As we honor her at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Adaptigent cherishes Grace Hopper as an integral part of our foundation. Her innovation and expertise are the cornerstones of many of our products, a tribute to her enduring legacy.

Learn more about Adaptigent’s Fujitsu NetCOBOL