International Girls in ICT Day- Grace Hopper
International Girls in ICT Day, aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
This year International Girls in ICT Day will be observed on Thursday 25th April 2019 and in the run up to that date, each week we invite you to learn more about five of the most influential women in the history of the field.
A computer scientist, University professor, United States Navy rear admiral, computer programer, one of the key figures in the creation of an early high-level programming language still in use today and posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it’s no wonder she was known by many as ‘Amazing Grace.
Grace Brewster Hopper was born on December 9th 1906. She achieved a Bachelors in Mathematics and Physics from Vassar College and her Masters and Ph.D in Mathematics from Yale University- one of the first few woman to earn a Ph.D in the subject- before returning to Vassar as a Professor of Mathematics.
She attempted to enlist in the US Navy at the age of 34 but was rejected. She instead joined the Navy reserves and due to her mathematical background, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she learned to program a Mark I computer and later worked on the Mark II and Mark III as a research fellow after the war.
Wanting to continue to work with computers, Hopper moved into private industry in 1949, first with the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, then with Remington Rand, where she oversaw programming for the UNIVAC computer.
In 1952, her team created the first compiler for computer languages, which renders worded instructions into code that can be read by computers. This compiler was a precursor for the Common Business Oriented Language, or COBOL, a widely adapted language that would be used around the world.
Hopper’s pioneering computer work meant that she was recalled to active Naval duty at the age of 60 to tackle standardizing communication between different computer languages. She would remain with the Navy until her retirement in 1986, at age 79, raising to the rank of Rear Admiral and becoming the oldest serving officer in the service.
She was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991, becoming the first female individual recipient of the honour. She died at the age of 85 and was laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery. In 2016, she was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
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