Featured Innovator: Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

Featured Innovator Dr. Grace Murray Hopper

Every other week, we acknowledge an individual throughout history who has brought long lasting innovation to the supply chain and logistics industry.

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper Computer Pioneer and Legendary Naval Officer

 Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a computer pioneer and naval officer, whose achievements and life accomplishments are impossible to fit into one article. Hopper believed that computers would someday be widely used, and she helped to make them more user friendly and widely distributed. We included Dr. Grace Murray Hopper as a Featured Innovator because her contributions to computer programming and the development of new technologies can be traced to the extensive use of Supply Chain Software in our industry today.  

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a dedicated teacher, known as “irreverent, sharp-tongued and brilliant” Dr. Grace Murray Hopper was a dedicated teacher, known as “irreverent, sharp-tongued and brilliant”

A Lifetime of Success

Hopper received her masters (1930) and her PhD (1934) in Mathematics from Yale; she came of age during a relatively prosperous time for women in the education field.High numbers of women were receiving doctorates in the 20’s and 30’s, in numbers that wouldn’t be matched again until the 80’s. 

After Pearl Harbor, Hopper immediately signed up for the war effort (even leaving Vassar College for it) and was initially rejected, but her persistence eventually won. Hopper managed to join and succeed in two very male dominated arenas: Mathematics, and the Navy.
Dr. Hopper knew her value, and relentlessly defended it against those who thought she did not belong. She left the Navy when they decided she was too old to be paid a commission for her work, and she left Harvard when they refused to promote her or grant her tenure due to her sex.  

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The Mark 1 and the Computer “BUG”

During the war, Dr. Hopper was assigned to the “Bureau of Ships Computation Project” at Harvard, where she worked with Howard Aiken to develop and program the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator: the Mark 1. Hopper also worked on top secret calculations for the war: computing rocket trajectories, range tables for anti-aircraft guns, calibrating minesweepers, developing the plutonium bomb.

Fun Fact: Do you know why a computer virus is called a BUG?
While working on the Mark 2 + 3, Hopper and her coworkers at Harvard found that the computer was delivering consistent errors before it stopped working completely.When they opened up the computer, they found a moth trapped between the relay contacts, which led Hopper to log: “First actual case of bug being found.”

The moth (computer "bug") found inside the computer The moth (computer “bug”) found inside the computer

The Oldest Serving Officer in the Service

Dr. Hopper was so dedicated to the Navy, she stayed on active duty until she was 79 years old; this made her the oldest serving officer in the US armed forces. During Hopper’s lifetime, she was honored with more than 40 honorary degrees, a National Medal of Technology from President Bush, and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 (after her death).She was an inspiring person, working until a year before her death, as she took her duty to her country so seriously. 

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Contribution to Supply Chain

Cedric Millar is a Lean company; continuous improvement is part of our company credo. Dr. Hopper is an inspiration for us as she was constantly pursuing excellence, and improvement in her field.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.” (Dr. Grace Murray Hopper)
 What is even more inspiring, was Hopper’s view of her life’s work: “If you ask me what accomplishment I’m most proud of, the answer would be all the young people I’ve trained over the years; that’s more important than writing the first computer.” Dr. Grace Murray Hopper knew, even given her outstanding accomplishments, that her greatest achievement was in what she left behind for those coming behind her. For the generations of women after her who are venturing into fields that are still male-dominated, but are much more welcoming and supportive, partly due to her outstanding work. 

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