Grace Murray Hopper
Paul Russell (PRUSSELL@IUBVM.BITNET)
Sun, 2 Feb 1992 21:32:55 EST
Hopefully, this will answer most of the recent questions about Admiral
Grace Murry Hopper. It is rather long, and was extracted from MEMO
HOPPER on the VMSHARE conference. YiS, pdr
--------------------------+ Original Message +--------------------------
Append on 01/03/92 at 01:19 by Rich Chong (312)943-5789:
I just heard on the radio that Adm. Grace Murray Hopper
just passed away in her sleep. She was 85. :-(
*** APPENDED 01/03/92 01:19:10 BY $S1 ***
Append on 01/03/92 at 22:16 by Melinda Varian <BITNET: MAINT@PUCC>:
The following is taken from The OCLC NEWSLETTER, March/April, 1987, No.
167. Editor (and article author) Philip Schieber.
The Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper
"Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems."
That observation comes from one who was present at the creation of the
age of systems--Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (US Navy, Retired), who spoke
on the campus of the Ohio State University, Columbus, on Feb. 5, 1987,
as part of a year-long celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the
formation of the Department of Computer and Information Science.
Introduced as the "third programmer on the first computer in the United
States, " Admiral Hopper spoke on the "Future of Computers, Hardware,
Software, and People." She regaled her audience of more than 1,000
persons with stories and pithy observations about the computer age.
72 Words of Storage
Grace Hopper is known worldwide for her work with the first large-scale
digital computer, the Mark I. "It was 51 feet long, eight feet high,
eight feet deep, " she said. "And it had 72 words of storage and could
perform three additions a second."
Admiral Hopper reported for active duty with the Navy in July 1944. She
was a 37-year old reservist who had a doctorate in mathematics from Yale
and had been teaching at Vassar for ten years. As a Lieutenant (J.G.)
Grace Hopper began her work computing with Howard Aiken at Harvard. They
used the first computer to figure ordnance calculations. After the war,
she was discharged from the Navy, but she stayed with computers at
Harvard and worked on the Navy's Mark II and III. In 1949 she joined
Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which was building UNIVAC I and
which was eventually to become Sperry-Univac. She retired from that
company in 1971.
"I seem to do a lot of retiring," said Admiral Hopper, who was born in
1906. She noted that she was first told she was "too old" for something
forty years ago, when she retired from the Navy for the first time. In
1967 she was recalled to active duty with the Navy, and when she retired
again from the navy in August 1986, she was the nation's oldest active
In her 40 years in computing, Admiral Hopper made important contributions
to the field that developed "the machine that assisted the power of the
brain rather than muscle."
In 1951 she discovered the first computer "bug." It was a real moth,
which she pasted into the UNIVAC I logbook. In 1952 she had an
operational compiler. "Nobody believed that," she said. "I had a
running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could
only do arithmetic." Admiral Hopper is also the "progenitor" of COBOL,
which she was working on in 1955. In 1967, she was recalled to the Navy
and served with the Naval Data Automation Command until she retired. Her
mission was to preside over the Navy's efforts to maintain uniformity in
computer languages. In 1983 she earned a special Presidential
appointment to flag rank as admiral. She is now a consultant for Digital
Herewith a sampling of Admiral Hopper's salty observations.
On the building of bigger computers: "In pioneer days they used oxen for
heavy pulling, and when one ox couldn't budge a log, they didn't try to
grow a larger ox. We shouldn't be trying for bigger computers, but for
more systems of computers."
On change: "Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've
always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock
on my wall that runs counter-clockwise."
On calculating the value of information: "A business' accounts receivable
file is much more important than its accounts payable file."
On information and knowledge: "We're flooding people with information.
We need to feed it through a processor. A human must turn information
into intelligence or knowledge. We've tended to forget that no computer
will ever ask a new question."
On advice to the young (whom she defines as "anybody half my age"): "You
manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and
forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of
*** APPENDED 01/03/92 22:16:58 BY PU/MELINDA ***
Append on 01/04/92 at 15:06 by Robert Klein, HTSC, 703-284-4386:
I've called her residence twice without getting a response. I'll drive
over there shortly and try to find out what their wishes are for
expressions of sympathy. I'll post here.
We have certainly suffered a great loss.
*** APPENDED 01/04/92 15:06:12 BY HUG/BOB ***
Append on 01/04/92 at 23:34 by Robert Klein, HTSC, 703-284-4386:
From an article in The Washington Post dated January 4, 1992 by
Richard Pearson, a Staff Writer:
Grace Murray Hopper, 85, a retired Navy rear admiral and a legendary
pioneer computer scientist who was a co-inventor of the business
language COBOL, died Jan. 1 at her home in Arlington after a heart
She joined the WAVES in 1943, serving through the end of the war.
During the war, she served in Bureau of Ordnance's computation project
at Harvard University. In the university's basement lab, she worked
on some of the earliest computer equipment built and learned to
program the first large-scale digital computer, the Mark I.
After the war, she remained in the reserve, returned to university
teaching and worked as computer scientist. She retired from the reserve
in 1966 as a commander, but was called back to active duty the next
year to run the office that standardized the Navy's computer programs
In 1973, when she was past the age to win a regular promotion, an act
of Congress promoted her to captain. After reaching retirement age,
she remained in uniform on active duty on special yearly extentions,
winning promotions to commodore and a special presidential promotion
to rear admiral, before retiring in 1986 as the Navy's oldest-serving
officer. Her retirement ceremonies were held aboard the Navy's
oldest commissioned warship, the historic frigate Constitution.
At the time she retired, Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said,
"She's challenged at every turn the dictates of mindless bureaucracy."
Lehman, who presented her with the Defense Distinguished Service
Medal, also recalled that she once "gave me a stern lecture on
computers. It was the roughest wire brushing I've had since I got
Adm. Hopper was described by co-workers, superiors and underlings as
always brilliant and tireless and sometimes contrary and cantankerous.
She ran an office in the Naval Data Automation Command on a steady
diet of unfiltered cigarettes and with a clock that ran counter-
clockwise and symbolized some of her attitudes.
She had an extreme dislike of intellectual conventions and
attitudes. She once told a reporter that "the only phrase I've
ever disliked is, 'Why, we've always done it that way.' I always
tell young people, go ahead and do it. You can always apologize
Her Navy awards included the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious
Service Medal. In September 1991, she was awarded the National
Medal of Technology by President Bush. In 1969 she was named
computer sciences "man of the year" by the Data Processing Management
Association. She was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers and a member of numerous other professional
Adm. Hopper, a New York native, was a 1928 graduate of Vassar college,
where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received a degree in
mathematics and physics. She received master's and doctoral degrees
in mathematics from Yale University. She taught at Vassar from 1931
until entering the Navy.
After the war, she was an engineering sciences research fellow and
continued work for the Navy on the Mark II and Mark III computers.
In 1949, she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp. in Phil-
adelphia as a senior mathematician. That company was building what
became the legendary Univac I, the first commercial, large-scale
electronic computing machine. The company later became part of the
Remington Rand Corp., and finally, the Sperry Corp., and she was
promoted to staff scientist.
At Sperry, she worked on the idea that led to COBOL, an acronym
taken from "common business-oriented language". COBOL was one of the
first widely used programming languages, and it helped transform
computers from an exotic tool of academia and the military to a
useful everyday tool of business.
Her work also led to early, successful compilers, programs that
translate human instructions into the codes used by modern computers.
A research team she led also was credited with coining the work "bug"
to describe the computer glitches. The first bug was literally
that, a two-inch moth that was pulled from the circuits of Harvard's
Mark I in 1945.
Adm. Hopper taught at George Washington University in the 1970s.
Since 1986, she had been a full-time senior consultant to Digital
Equipment Corp., working out of its Washington offices.
Her marriage to Vincent Foster Hopper ended in divorce.
Survivors include a brother, Dr. Robert F. Murray II of Wolfeboro,
N.H., and a sister, Mary Murray Westcote of Glen Ridge, N.J.
*** APPENDED 01/04/92 23:34:57 BY HUG/BOB ***
Append on 01/05/92 at 13:04 by Joellen Windsor:
About 5 years ago or so, Adm. Hopper gave the keynote speech at DECUS. Un-
fortunately, I was not there. However, it was talked about for years (liter-
ally). There was a videotape of that speech which was passed around among
the DECUS folks. I will get with my old collegues in that arena and see if
anyone still has a copy.
Joellen Windsor -- University of Arizona
*** APPENDED 01/05/92 13:04:15 BY UOA/JWINDSOR ***
Append on 01/06/92 at 04:30 by Steve Mueller, IBM CODE Development:
I believe she was interviewed by 60 Minutes a few years ago. I still
remember her "It's easier to apologize than to get permission" line, and her
"physical model" of a nanosecond (an 11-inch piece of wire, I believe). Her
microsecond got to be too big to carry, I suspect.
*** APPENDED 01/06/92 04:30:09 BY .SM ***
Append on 01/06/92 at 22:35 by Robert Klein, HTSC, 703-284-4386:
From the Sunday, 5 January 1992 Washington Post obituary page:
Hopper, Grace M., Rear Adm. USN (Ret)
On Tuesday, January 1, 1992, of Arlington, VA; sister of Roger
Murray of Wolfeboro, NH and Mrs. William Westcote of Glenridge, NJ.
She is also survived by several nephews. Funeral service with full
military honors will be held Tuesday, January 7, 1 p.m. Ft. Myer Chapel
with interment Arlington National Cemetary. Expressions of
sympathy may be made to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, 801
N. Randolph St., Arlington, VA 22203-1989 or Brewster Academy,
David Smith, Head Master, Wolfeboro, NH 03891. Arrangements by
Arlington Funeral Home.
*** APPENDED 01/06/92 22:35:49 BY HUG/BOB ***
Append on 01/09/92 at 17:54 by Robert Klein, HTSC, 703-284-4386:
The funeral for Admiral Hopper began with the Navy Band playing
a hymn outside of the Memorial Chapel at Ft. Myer Tuesday. The
Navy Color Guard escorted the casket into the Chapel and an
Admiral's flag draped in black was placed at the front. The
Navy Chaplain started with several readings from the Old Testament
including Psalms 90 and 46. He followed with an excerpt from
He began his homily by saying her achievements were too numerous
to mention in a brief time. He spoke of her great love for the Navy
and her untiring devotion to the country. She encouraged young
people to advance and to constantly reexamine what they were doing
to find a better way and not just to do things out of habit. He
recounted that when she left a meeting, she often wished the
group, 'Fair winds and following seas.'
The band preceded the Color Guard and the horse drawn caisson
as family and friends walked behind it from the Chapel into
Arlington National Cemetery. After we gathered around the grave
site, the Chaplain read another passage from Scripture. He
concluded with the words of the first verse from Taps:
Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky;
All is well,
God is nigh.
The Color Guard and band then came to attention. The military
honors rendered were both an 11 gun salute from a howitzer battery,
befitting an Admiral, and a 21 gun salute for a fallen member of
the Armed Forces. The final sounding of Taps for Admiral Hopper
concluded the ceremony.
Listening to the organist play several verses of 'Amazing Grace',
each with more brilliance than the previous one, was tough.
Hearing the final sounding of Taps for her was the hardest part
She was laid to rest on Tuesday, January 7, 1992 in Section 59,
grave 973 just off Eisenhower Drive near the juncture of York
Drive. As she wished us, so we do her, 'Fair winds and following
seas.' May she rest in peace.
*** APPENDED 01/09/92 17:54:04 BY HUG/BOB ***
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City