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  • Safe Harbor: The story of Grace Hopper

Safe Harbor: The story of Grace Hopper

Safe Harbor: The story of Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper is a hero and an inspiration to Naval Officers and Information Technology professionals globally. Born in 1906, Hopper graduated with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale in 1934. In 1940, she attempted to enlist to join the WWII effort but was rejected by the military because she was considered by the Navy too old. She elected instead to join the US Navy Reserve.  Upon completion of training, where she was top of her class, Hopper was assigned to the Bureau of Ships and Computation Project at Harvard University.

Hopper spent a large portion of her career working at Harvard on various Navy contracts. She first worked on the Mark I computer, and later joined the Eckert Mauchly Corporation where she developed the compiler. A compiler converts code language based on words into computer code, and served as a foundation for modern computer programming. In 1959, Hopper participated in the CODASYL consortium that developed COBOL, the first computing language that used English words.  Hopper retired in 1971, but was recalled to Active Duty. Hopper finally retired as a Rear-Admiral in 1986.

In 1981, Hopper was profiled in the San Diego Union. In the profile, she said “A motto that has stuck with me is: ‘A ship in port is safe. But that’s not what ships were built for.’’” The original iteration of this quote is attributed to author John A. Shedd who in 1928 released a collection of saying in his collection “Salt from My Attack.” While Shedd might have been the original, Hopper’s incredible career and leadership led our decision to feature her on our Heritage Collection Mug.

Hopper is also attributed to terms ‘bug’ and ‘debugging’. When working on the Mark II Computer, Hopper and her teammates found a moth in the computer that was hampering its operation; by removing the moth, Hopper declared she was ‘debugging’ the machine.  

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