For International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, I am bringing back a old post that I wrote when there was a big discussion of putting a woman on the $10 bill (what ever happened to that discussion?)

I have a list of my favorites. Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frances Perkins. Any of these women will be an excellent choice for the $10 bill. But they are not my personal favorite. You don’t see her on most lists. So, drum roll please, my nomination is Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, USN, PhD.

Admiral Hopper graduated from Vassar in 1928 with degrees in math and physics. She went on to earn a Masters and her PhD from Yale. That led to teaching at Vassar until World War II when she enlisted in the WAVES. She served in the Navy until 1986. She tried to retire a couple of times but she kept getting recalled. When she finally retired, Admiral Hopper was the oldest active duty commissioned officer currently serving.

Her contributions to the new computer science field are astounding. She was one of the programmers for the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944. While most of her colleagues were seeing computers as mathematical tools, Admiral Hopper created the first complier that converted computer instructions into binary language the computer understands. Building on her compiler work, Admiral Hopped created the COBOL programming language and compiler which allowed the computer to become a solid business tool. Her work on standards to test early computers and computer languages were used by the Navy and because what is today the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

I first learned who Admiral Hopper was from a 60 Minutes segment. I was learning a little COBOL at the time and was happy to learn more about who created that language. I especially liked that she was a feisty, independent role model to women in science. I’ve never forgotten her “nanosecond”. Admiral Hopper regularly gave out pieces of wire that were about 11.80 inches long. 11.80 inches being how far light travels in a nanosecond.

I understand that Admiral Hopper is a long shot for the $10 bill. There are so many great women who deserve the honor (sad that so many who want to lead the country don’t recognize them.)

 If she doesn’t get on the $10 bill, I guess Grace Hopper will just have to make do with her destroyer – the USS Hopper.

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