Saturday, November 25, 2017

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

Rear Admiral Dr.Grace Murray Hopper was born in 1906 in New York City. Grace was the oldest of three children, having a younger brother and sister. Her childhood was filled with typical activities of this time period; she loved needlepoint, playing the piano and reading. Her summers were spent with cousins at a family cottage in New Hampshire. Grace loved to take things apart and one famously remembered incident is her taking apart an alarm clock. When Grace was unable to reassemble the clock she set about taking the others apart until she learned to reassemble the first clock!

Her parents believed that Grace and her sister should have the same quality of education as her brother. To that end, Grace attended Graham School and Schoonmakers School in New York City. Grace eventually entered Vassar College in 1924 after she managed to pass her Latin exam. She graduated in 1928 with a B.A. in mathematics and physics. In 1930, Grace received a Masters degree in mathematics. In 1930, Grace also married Vincent Foster Hopper, whose surname she adopted. She began teaching at Vassar College in 1931, while she worked towards a Ph.D which she earned in 1934, a rare accomplishment for a woman at that time.

When World War II broke out, Grace joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1943. Because of her mathematical background, Grace was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project Harvard. It was at Harvard, in their Cruft's Laboratories that Grace worked on the Mark I computer and later the Mark II and Mark III. A moth caused the Mark II computer to short circuit, an incident that gave rise to the phrase "computer bug".

Grace Hopper  posing with a manual of COBOL and the Mark computer.
Grace envisioned computers having a much wider application and eventually becoming available to both business and the public. To that end she worked to develop a number of computer languages. She developed FLOW-MATIC a programming language that used English phrases instead of mathematical notation. This eventually led to the development of COBOL, a computer programming language used primarily in business and finance.

Grace Hopper had a long and successful career both as a programmer, academic professor and continued to be active in the Navy. Grace received many awards during her lifetime including the first computer science Man of the Year by the Data Processing Management Association in 1969. Grace correctly predicted that one day computers would be small enough to fit on the top of a desk.

In Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, Wallmark captures Grace's "Dare and Do" attitude that marked her life. Grace was determined to live a full life and let nothing hold her back. The colorful illustrations by Katy Wu accent Watermark's story of Grace's remarkable life. Readers see Grace enjoying a plane ride with a barnstormer doing loop-the-loops, teaching students about volume, troubleshooting computer "bugs" and brainstorming a new computer language. Peppered throughout the book are quotes from Grace Hopper. The back of the picture book contains further details: a time line of Grace's life, a Selected Bibliography, Additional Reading About Other Women In Stem, and a feature about Grace's many awards. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code is a must-have for libraries and those interested in women who have made important contributions to science.

You can read more about Grace Hopper at the Vassar College website.

Book Details:

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
New York: Sterling Children's Book                      2017

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