Occupations in the field of computer science are considered to be “male” jobs. Women are increasingly less likely to enter the field than in years past. However, two of the first people that we were introduced to in our textbook as key people in the history of Computer Science are Ada Augusta and Grace Murray Hopper. The page limits of this paper do not allow the author to adequately describe all of the contributions that Grace made to Computer Science. Instead, you will be introduced to Grace Hopper and how her pioneering work on the Mark I continue to influence women and the world of computer science.
Grace Brewster Murray was born in New York City on December 9, 1906, to “upper middle-class” parents. (Williams, 2004) Her father, Walter Murray, was a life insurance executive and her mother, Mary Campbell Van Horne, was “an accomplished mathematician.” (Beyer, 2009) The Murrays had two other children, a daughter named Mary Campbell and a son named Roger Franklin II. While Grace’s mother never had a formal education, she and her husband encouraged their children’s intellectual pursuits. Books and trips to the museums were a huge part of the children’s lives. Mrs. Murray wanted her children to be well-rounded in all of their skills and knowledge. She believed gardening, sewing, sailing and swimming were life lessons that all of her children should learn and gave them the opportunities to do so. Grace’s mother felt it was important for her children to receive a good education, especially for her daughters.
Vassar was Grace’s choice for college. Most women in the 1920s were getting their education to meet a husband; Vassar offered courses “designed ‘to raise motherhood to a profession worthy of [women’s] finest talents and greatest intellectual gifts.’” (Williams, 2004) In contrast, Grace took her studies seriously by concentrating in mathematics and physics. After completing her degree at Vassar in 1928, she went on to earn her master’s degree in mathematics and physics at Yale University. In 1934, Grace successfully completed her dissertation and, in doing so, “became the first woman to graduate from Yale with a doctorate in mathematics in the school’s 233-year history.” (Beyer, 2009)
In 1931, Grace accepted a full-time teaching position at Vassar and taught “courses that no one else wanted to teach.” (Beyer, 2009) This included trigonometry and calculus as well as mechanical and architectural drawing. She developed innovative ways to teach these dreadful courses and enrollments began to increase. Rocketry was a new concept during this time and had a lot of attention in the media. Grace used rocketry as an example while teaching ballistics problems from the calculus textbooks. “Many of the younger faculty objected to Grace’s methods (of teaching), saying she was not teaching traditional mathematics.” (Williams, 2004) Her techniques, while unconventional, were effective and would prove to be helpful throughout...