Department of Energy

Five Fast Facts About Technologist Grace Hopper

March 12, 2015

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Grace Hopper, computer scientist and inventor of the first compiler, is the second subject of our Women's History Month #ThrowbackThursday. | Photo courtesy of the White House.

Grace Hopper, computer scientist and inventor of the first compiler, is the second subject of our Women's History Month #ThrowbackThursday. | Photo courtesy of the White House.

It’s Women’s History Month on Energy.gov. During the month of March we’re highlighting the great contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM fields made by women throughout history, as well as taking a look at fascinating work that women are doing in STEM fields today.

Grace Murray Hopper was one of the first computer programmers to work on the Harvard Mark I. She was also a United States Navy rear admiral, helped develop COBOL -- one of the first high-level programming languages -- and invented the first compiler, a program that translates programming code to machine language.

Here are some other facts about Grace Hopper you might not know:

  1. Hopper earned a PhD in math from Yale -- a rare accomplishment for anyone at the time. Only 1,279 math PhDs were awarded in the 72-year period from 1862-1934, the year Hopper received hers.

  1. She is credited with coining the terms “bug” and “de-bug” as related to computer errors. One day a computer failure stumped Hopper and her team until she opened the machine and found a moth inside! Taping the moth into her log book, she wrote, “first actual bug found.”

  1. Her nickname was “Amazing Grace” thanks to her high naval rank and myriad accomplishments in math and computer science.

  1. She was a big believer in mentorship, once saying, “The most important thing I've accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, 'Do you think we can do this?' I say, ‘Try it.’ And I back 'em up.”

  2. The Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, or NERSC, was named after her.