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“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – Grace Murray Hopper (1906 – 1992 )
I have a remarkable lady I’d love to introduce you to. The quote above and the life below are hers.
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper was born in New York City on December 9, 1906. At 16, she applied to Vassar College. However, she failed a Latin exam and Vassar told her she must wait a year. Undaunted, she entered Vassar the following year. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1928, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Physics.
In 1930, at age 23, she received her Master’s Degree in Mathematics from Yale University. A year later, Vassar hired her as a mathematics instructor. During the time she taught at Vassar (1931 – 1943), she earned a Ph.D. from Yale and was promoted from instructor to associate professor.
When World War II broke out, patriotic pride filled Grace and she realized that she wanted more than anything to serve her country. So she made a life-altering decision and joined the Navy. The process was not an easy one, however. At age 34, and weighing just 105 pounds, she was considered overage and underweight for military enlistment. Furthermore, her position as a mathematics professor was declared crucial to the war effort. Navy officials asked her to remain a civilian. While these obstacles slowed her down, they certainly didn’t stop her. She obtained a waiver for the weight requirement, special government permission, and a leave of absence from Vassar College. In December 1943, she was sworn into the U.S. Naval Reserve. She went on to train at Midshipman’s School for Women, graduating first in her class.
She became the third programmer of the Mark I (the world’s first large-scale automatically sequenced digital computer). The computer was used to calculate aiming angles for Naval guns in varying weather conditions. Because the numbers were so vitally important, Hopper and her assistants were often required to run and monitor the system around the clock, as in twenty-four hours a day! They spent incredibly long hours transcribing and inputting codes for Mark I and its offspring, Mark II and III. Hopper received the Naval Ordnance Development Award in 1946 for her work on the Marks.
In 1983, by special Presidential appointment, Hopper was promoted to the rank of Commodore. Two years later, she became one of the first women to be elevated to the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1986, after forty-three years of service, RADM Grace Hopper ceremoniously retired on the deck of the USS Constitution. At eighty years, she was the oldest active duty officer at that time.
Rear Admiral Grace Brewster Murray Hopper died January 1, 1992. She was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Remember her quote? Apparently she didn’t just say the words, she lived them.
Make each moment count double,