Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992): A legacy of innovation and service

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On Feb. 11, President Peter Salovey announced that he and the Yale Corporation had voted to change the name of Calhoun College, one of the university’s undergraduate residential colleges, to honor alumna Grace Murray Hopper. Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was a computer pioneer and naval officer. Read the story. Here is a look at Hopper’s life and legacy.

Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was a computer pioneer and naval officer. She received a master’s degree (1930) and a Ph.D. (1934) in mathematics from Yale. One of the first three modern “programmers,” Hopper is best known for her trailblazing contributions to the development of computer languages. Known as irreverent, sharp-tongued, and brilliant, she enjoyed long and influential careers in both the U.S. Navy and the private sector.

The daughter of Walter Fletcher Murray (Yale B.A. 1894, Phi Beta Kappa) and Mary Campbell Van Horne, Grace Brewster Murray was born in 1906 in New York City. Her father owned an insurance company. She was educated in private schools, and the family summered in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. In 1928 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with degrees in mathematics and physics. In 1930 Hopper received her master’s degree in mathematics from Yale. In 1931 she began teaching mathematics at Vassar while pursuing her doctorate at Yale under computer pioneer Howard Engstrom. In 1934 she completed her Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematical physics from Yale. During a one-year sabbatical from Vassar, Hopper studied with the famous mathematician Richard Courant at New York University.

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