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born 1906

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a trailblazing technologist. Nicknamed the First Lady of Software, she invented compiled programming languages while working on the very earliest electronic computers. 

Grace patriotically left her university post as a popular math professor at Vassar to enlist in the US Navy during WWII. She was almost denied entry ~ due to her "advanced" age {37} and physical condition {16 pounds underweight} ~ but went on to become one of the military's most celebrated researchers. After 43 years of service, she retired at the age of 80 as a Rear Admiral and the Navy's oldest serving officer. Today, "Amazing Grace" continues to be a patron saint of computing, inspiring women & girls to take hold in tech + calling on all of us to "move to the future."

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Grace Hopper (20)

"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."

aphorism commonly misattributed to Grace | january 1928

"I keep a clock which operates entirely counterclockwise. And on the first day people meet it, they can't tell time. On the second day, they discover what used to be 5 of is now 5 after, and they can tell time again. Normally, it's not till the third day that they suddenly realize: there was never any reason why clocks had to run clockwise."

widely delivered lecture as the Head of the Training and Technology Directorate at the Naval Data Automation Command | ca. 1980

"Probably the most dangerous phrase that anyone could use in the world today is that dreadful one: 'But we've always done it that way.'"

widely delivered lecture as the Head of the Training and Technology Directorate at the Naval Data Automation Command | ca. 1980

"Even in a world of accelerating change, it is still difficult to convince people that the new ways of doing things can be better and cheaper."

David and Goliath | 1983

"No innovation or standard should be rejected as too costly without careful evaluation of the 'cost of not doing it.'"

David and Goliath | 1983

"It is insufficient to plan on the past alone; the plan must be examined in the light of 'all possible future developments.'"

David and Goliath | 1983

"The application of systems techniques has been successful in scientific and technical applications . . . It meets difficulty when it is applied in social and political situations largely because people are not 'well-behaved' mathematical functions, but can only be represented by statistical approximations, and all of the extremes can and do occur."

David and Goliath | 1983

"People are not 'well-behaved' mathematical functions."

David and Goliath | 1983

"I didn't know what a billion was. I don't think most of those men downtown know what a billion is, either. And if you don't know what a billion is, how on earth do you know what a billionth is?"

Grace Hopper explains Nanoseconds | ca. 1985

"Kids will be using computers instead of memorizing their multiplication tables. This will give them more time to solve word problems, which is much more useful. That's the real problem. Not the arithmetic but the interpretation."

Only the Limits of Our Imagination | july 1986

"Either you use computers or you can't do the job."

Only the Limits of Our Imagination | july 1986

"It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."

Only the Limits of Our Imagination | july 1986

"You manage things; you lead people."

{3rd + last} US Navy Retirement Ceremony on the USS Constitution | september 1986

"They should have a course in civilian dressing. Here I've been wearing nice round-toed, flat-heeled shoes, and all of the sudden they want to put me on spike heels, and I fall off . . . And then I tried to get some pantyhose. And the first pair bagged at the calf and the second pair cut me in half and the third pair did both—how do you get a pair of pantyhose that fit?"

Grace Hopper on The David Letterman Show | october 1986

"Everyone wants better answers faster."

Grace Hopper on The David Letterman Show | october 1986

"There's something you learn in your first boot-camp, or training camp: If they put you down somewhere with nothing to do, go to sleep—you don't know when you'll get any more."

Grace Hopper on The David Letterman Show | october 1986

"I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. They told me computers could only do arithmetic."

Future of Computers, Hardware, Software, and People | february 1987

"A business' accounts receivable file is much more important than its accounts payable file."

Future of Computers, Hardware, Software, and People | february 1987

"We're flooding people with information. We need to feed it through a processor. A human must turn information into intelligence or knowledge. We've tended to forget that no computer will ever ask a new question."

Future of Computers, Hardware, Software, and People | february 1987

"A human must turn information into intelligence. We've tended to forget that no computer will ever ask a new question."

Future of Computers, Hardware, Software, and People | february 1987
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curated with care by Alicia Williamson {august 2014}