The Amazing Grace Hopper: A Computer Science Pioneer and total Badass

In my last post I talked about Grace Hopper happening this week, but maybe you’re wondering why #GHC16 is trending on Twitter? If you didn’t know that she was an actual person, here are 10 reasons why she paved the way for others and was so ahead of her time:

1. In 1934, she earned her Ph.D. in math from Yale University. That’s a huge accomplishment in any era, and one can only imagine the challenges she faced 81 years ago.

2. She had a well-deserved and hard-earned nickname: Amazing Grace. She was given this nickname due to her many accomplishments in math, computer science, and her service as a rear admiral in the US Navy.

3. She has a class guided-missile destroyer named in her honor: USS Hopper (DDG-70). Also, the University of Missouri honored Hopper with a computer museum on their campus in 2004. It’s called “Grace’s Place.”

4. She had a great sense of humor, popularizing the term “debugging” when she was working on a computer at Harvard University in the 1940’s. The computer was not working due to a moth being stuck in the relay. She quipped that she and her associates were “debugging” the system.

5. She helped develop COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.

6. She was a big believer in collaborative leadership. In an era where leadership was largely viewed as autocratic top-down management, Grace Hopper was beyond her time. In her words:

“Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew.”

“You don't manage people; you manage things. You lead people.”

7. She had supportive, feminist parents. With the goal of encouraging all of his children to be self-sufficient, Walter Fletcher Murray ensured that his daughters had the same educational opportunities as his son. Her mom, Mary Campbell Van Horne Murray, was very interested in math but discouraged her to pursue it because it was perceived as “unladylike.”

8. She was on David Letterman (October 2, 1986). You can watch her interview below.

9. She now has the largest women in tech conference named after her: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which kicks off this week in Houston, Texas this week.

10. She is a key inspiration for us at ReigningIt. We believe in the power of mentorship, taking chances, and supporting each other in our journey. Grace Hopper said,

“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. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.”

Amazing Grace indeed.

A huge thank you to Angela Cleveland for the inspiration for this story!
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