What did grace hopper invent? and What was her role in World War II

Read about Grace Hopper’s spectacular inventions and achievements in her life.

There are many legends in this world who have left a legacy even after death. These honorable personalities have shaped the world as it is now. Their inventions, their actions run the world at present. One of those honorable personalities is Grace Hopper. 

Who was Grace Hopper?

Grace Hopper was a programmer, a mathematician, and a U.S. Navy Army. She was a multi-talented woman who always cared for her country. She lived a long life and died serving the country. 

Grace Hopper young
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Grace Hopper joined the U.S. Navy while the second world war was going on. Since she was a mathematician, she was assigned to operate and program Mark I computer. She continued to work on computers during and after the war. 

So what did Grace Hopper invent? Grace Hopper and her team invented the first compiler for computer languages also known as COBOL language. Retiring after the age of 60, she also became a rear admiral in 1986. Rear admiral is the rank of a naval officer, above commodore and below vice admiral.

When was Grace Hopper born?

Grace Hopper was born on December 9, 1906, in New York City. Her full name is Grace Brewster Murray. She is the daughter of Walter Murray and Mary Campbell Van Horne. Grace attended private schools during her childhood. She was excellent in her studies and had a keen interest in physics and mathematics. Later in college, she took physics and math as her major subjects and graduated in Phi Beta Kappa which is a high academic achievement from Vassar College. 

In 1930, she joined masters and received her master’s degree from Yale University in mathematics. Throughout her student life, she was brilliant and sharp-tongued. In the following year, Grace married Vincent Foster Hopper changing her name to Grace Hopper. 

After her masters in 1931, she started teaching mathematics at Vassar. Simultaneously, she was pursuing her doctorate at Yale University in computer science. Taking mathematics and physics as major’s she completed her Ph.D. in 1934 from Yale University. This was a very big success for her since women’s education was not in practice in those days. She became one of the few women to receive a degree in Mathematics. 

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Grace Hopper in World war II

Grace hopper was already assigned as the associate professor at Vassar. It was the time of world war II. War created opportunities for women’s employment since they needed a maximum workforce. Grace decided to help the war and joined the war efforts. Initially, she was rejected due to her age and small-sized body. But she tried repeatedly and was finally selected. 

In  December 1943 she was an official member of the U.S Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve). She was assigned to Harvard University’s Bureau of ships computation Project in 1944 where she got an opportunity to work with professional professors. 

Grace hopper queen of computer code

Grace worked on Mark I which is the first large automatic calculator. She remained at Harvard as a reservist in naval career. Being in the research team, she worked with  Mark II and Mark III computers. One day a moth infiltrated the Mark II and caused it to short out. Grace used the term ‘bug’ to address the failure of the machine due to a moth. The word ‘Computer bug’ which is still popular was first coined by Grace herself. 

In 1949, Grace shifted her work into private industry. She first joined the Eckert-Mauchly computer cooperation where she designed and improved numerous compilers. After some time the firm was taken over by Remington Rand in 1951 and again by Sperry Rand Corp. in 1955. Despite the change in owners, she continued to work and got to explore about UNIVAC computers. 

What did grace hopper invent?

In 1952, Grace Hopper and her team invented and programmed a compiler for computer languages called COBOL language. This compiler had the ability to translate programmers’ instructions into machine language (code). The compiler is a predecessor of Common Business Oriented Language for short COBOL. Since then COBOL compiler is adopted all over the world. Grace hopper did not invent the compiler COBOL from scratch but she improvised and improved its adaption.

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Grace Hopper’s Retirement in the U.S. Navy

In the year 1966, Grace hopper retired from the Naval Reserve when she was 60 years old. Although she was retired from the post, she was called back to active duty the following year to standardize computer languages used in the navy. She worked for extra 19 years, till she was 79 years of age. 

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Grace Hopper then held the record of the oldest officer working at the Navy actively. She also held the title of rear admiral. In 1986, Grace Hopper finally retired without having to go back.  

After retirement

Despite her retirement, Grace didn’t sit idle. She wanted to continue her work so she took another job related to computers. She worked for several years even after retirement. For her work done and dedication, Grace hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology. Grace was the first woman to receive this award. 

On January 1, 1992, Grace Hopper died at the age of 85 in Arlington, Virginia. She was cremated in Arlington National Cemetary.

Grace Hopper Conference and Legacy

Grace Hopper has passed away but her legacy still lives on. In 2004, the University of Missouri placed a computer museum in the campus naming it as ‘Grace’s Place’. Inspired by her programing dedication, young people are encouraged to learn to program. 

There is a technical conference established in the name of grace hopper as ‘The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference’. This conference encourages young and passionate women to participate in computing around the world. 


Grace Hopper was a remarkable woman. What did Grace Hopper invent? She invented the COBOL compiler and worked on Mark I and Mark II computers. Her knowledge in the computer field was so vast and extra-ordinary which has left a stamp in the current world. There are many women out there who are still learning, still growing to become like Grace Hopper. Let us also take inspiration from her life and do what we are doing best.





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