Grace Hopper was a computer pioneer and naval officer. She received a master’s degree (1930) and a Ph.D. (1934) in mathematics from Yale. One of the first three modern “programmers,” Hopper is best known for her trailblazing contributions to the development of computer languages. Known as irreverent, sharp-tongued, and brilliant, she enjoyed long and influential careers in both the U.S. Navy and the private sector.  

Hopper came of age at a time of unusual opportunity for women. A relatively high number of women were receiving doctorates in the 1920s and 1930s — numbers that would not be matched again until the 1980s.1 World War II also created opportunities for women to enter the workforce in greater numbers. Nonetheless, Hopper’s success in a male-dominated field and in male-dominated organizations, including the U.S. Navy, was exceptional.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, Hopper decided to join the war effort. She was initially rejected because of her age and diminutive size, but she persisted. Taking a leave of absence from Vassar, where she was an associate professor, Hopper joined the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve) in December 1943 and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University. Hopper died in 1992.