January 9, 1946
Lt. (j. g.) Grace Murray Hopper '28, USNR, on military leave from Vassar's mathematics department, spoke on the Automatic Sequence Controlled Computer and Large Scale Calculator and the future of "computing." "Lieutenant Hopper," said The Miscellany News, "sketched the history of computing machines.... Any problem can be reduced to successive processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and using tables, and can be computed on the machine which deals with numbers containing up to twenty-three decimal places.... There are six large scale machines in the United States now, each with its trained crew. In the future these machines will be employed more extensively and may be adapted for use in economics and other fields."
"This modern calculator," The Misc added in "Lecture Notes," published the following week, "given to Harvard University, but used by the U. S. Navy during the war, has completed 32 problems since it was put to work in the spring of 1944. One of these, amounting to 235 pages of figures, is to be given to the Vassar library. Lieutenant Hopper has estimated that it would have taken over 300 years to compile the results without the calculator."
A pioneer in the field of computers, Associate Professor Hopper did not return to Vassar's mathematics department at the end of World War II. Continuing her work in the Navy, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she worked on the Mark series of computers, receiving the Naval Ordnance Development Award for her programming of the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III computers. Her subsequent work with the Univac machines of Sperry Rand led to the her design of COBOL, the first "modern language" computer language for business applications.
A frequent visitor to Vassar, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper retired from active duty in the Navy in 1986. She died in Arlington, VA, on January 1, 1992.