Rear Admiral Grace Brewster Murray Hopper
Grace Brewster Murray was born December 9, 1906 in New York City. She is the daughter of Walter Fletcher Murray and Mary Campbell Van Horne. Her father owned an insurance company in New York.
Grace Murray was admitted to Vassar College at age 17 and 1928 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with degrees in mathematics and physics. In 1930 Hopper received her master’s degree in mathematics from Yale. In 1931 she began teaching mathematics at Vassar while pursuing her doctorate at Yale under computer pioneer Howard Engstrom.
In 1934 she completed her Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematical physics from Yale, becoming one of the first few women to earn such a degree.
She taught mathematics at Vassar from 1933 to 1943.
During a one-year sabbatical from Vassar, Grace studied with the famous mathematician Richard Courant at New York University.
She was married to New York University professor Vincent Foster Hopper from 1930 until their divorce in 1945. She never remarried.
In December of 1943 World War II compelled her to join the military. She was initially rejected because of her age and diminutive size, but she persisted. She took a leave of absence from Vassar, where she was an associate professor, and joined the U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES)
She attended Midshipmen’s School for Women at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and upon graduation in July 1944, was commissioned a lieutenant, junior grade, which is an O-2. Her first assignment was the Bureau of Ordnance’s Computation Project at Harvard University, where she was greeted by Naval Reserve Commander Howard Hathaway Aiken by him saying, “Where the hell have you been?”
He pointed to the Harvard MARK I, which he developed and said it was a computing machine, and told Lieutenant Hopper to compute the coefficients of the arc tangent series by Thursday. Later she said, “I had never met a digit and I wanted nothing to do with digits,” she came into the computer business, becoming, in her words, “the third programmer on the world’s first large-scale digital computer.” (The two who preceded her, then called “coders,” were Ensigns Robert Campbell and Richard Bloch.)
The MARK I was the first large-scale automatic calculator and a precursor of electronic computers. When she saw the MARK I, all she could think about was taking it apart and figuring it out. “That was an impressive beast. She was fifty-one feet long, eight feet high, and five feet deep,” said Hopper.
Also, during this time a large moth got in to the computer and caused a relay to fail. Lieutenant Hopper entered the moth, with Scotch tape, in the log book with the note, “First actual case of bug being found.” The log book and the moth are in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Some say this is where the term “a bug in the system” was coined. Others say that the term has been traced back to at least the time of Edison, but Hopper was humorously pleased to be the first to find a real bug that had caused a bug in the machine.
Under the guidance of Commander Aiken, Lieutenant Hopper and her colleagues worked on top-secret calculations essential to the war effort, such as computing rocket trajectories, creating range tables for new anti-aircraft guns, and calibrating minesweepers. One of the first three “coders” (now known as programmers), Hopper also wrote the 561-page user manual for the MARK I.
After the war ended, Hopper turned down a full professorship at Vassar to continue her work with computers. In 1946, she left active duty when the Navy declined her request for a regular commission due to her age (38), but she remained a naval reservist. From 1946 to 1949, she continued to work on and master the MARK II and MARK III computers while working under Navy contracts. At the end of her three-year term as a research fellow, she left Harvard because there were no permanent positions for women.
In 1949 Hopper moved into private industry, first with the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. She was employed as the senior mathematician. There she oversaw programming for the UNIVAC computer, the first large-scale electronic computer, and created a program that translated symbolic math codes into machine language. This breakthrough allowed programmers to store codes on magnetic tape and re-call them when they were needed — essentially the first compiler.
In 1952, her team created the first compiler for computer languages (a compiler renders worded instructions into code that can be read by computers). This compiler was a precursor for the Common Business Oriented Language, or COBOL, a widely adapted language that would be used around the world. Though she did not invent COBOL like some people claim, Hopper encouraged its adaptation and use.
She remained with the firm when it was taken over by Remington Rand (1951) and by Sperry Rand Corp. (1955). In 1957 her division developed Flow-Matic, the first English-language data-processing compiler. She stayed with the firm until she retired in 1971.
Her views on programming and computing were expressed in “The Education of a Computer” first published in the Proceedings of the ACM Conference, May 1952. In it she expressed the hope that “the programmer may return to being a mathematician.” In this paper she anticipated artificial intelligence saying, “it is the current aim to replace, as far as possible, the human brain by an electronic digital computer.” She recognized that the software would turn out to be more expensive than the hardware and foresaw that there would be the same kinds of applications in commercial programming as there were then in mathematics. The paper includes glimmerings of many tools and techniques concerning compilers that are now commonplace, including subroutines, translation of a formula, relative addressing, the linking loader, and code optimization. In it she also anticipated symbolic manipulation.
She retired from the Navy with the rank of Commander, O-5 or LTC, in 1966, but she was recalled to active duty in 1967 to help standardize the navy’s computer languages. At the age of 79, she was the oldest officer on active U.S. Naval duty when she retired again in 1986.
She always wanted to help young people and she took great pride in the fact that, in 1971, Sperry-Rand created the Grace Murray Hopper Award, which is presented annually by the ACM to a distinguished young computer professional. She considered her best biography to be Grace Hopper, Navy Admiral & Computer Pioneer, by Charlene W. Billings, which she hoped would encourage girls to look to careers in computing and in the Navy.
In 1983, a bill was introduced by Representative Philip Crane from Illinois who said, “It is time the Navy recognized the outstanding contributions made by this officer recalled from retirement over a decade and a half ago and promote her to the rank of Commodore.” Commodore is an O-6.
Rep. Crane became interested in Hopper after seeing her March 1983 60 Minutes interview. He’d never met Hopper, but after speaking with several people, was convinced she was due the added status of being a flag officer.
The bill was approved by the House, and at the age of 76, she was promoted to Commodore by special Presidential appointment. Her rank was elevated to Rear Admiral, O-7, in November 1985, making her one of few women admirals in the history of the United States Navy.
Known as “Amazing Grace,” Rear Admiral Hopper’s importance in U.S. Naval history is apparent everywhere you turn: a destroyer was named after her (USS Hopper, DDG-70), as was the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer.
She had honorary degrees from more than 40 colleges and universities. She received the first Computer Sciences “Man of the Year” award from the Data Processing Management Association (1969); the Harry Goode Memorial Award from AFIPS (1970); and the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from Yale (1972). In September 1991 she was awarded the National Medal of Technology “for her pioneering accomplishments in the development of computer programming languages that simplified computer technology and opened the door to a significantly larger universe of users.” She was the first woman to receive the award as an individual.
Hopper was elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (1962). She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 from President Obama.
In 2012 the movie Battleship two of the main characters are brothers, played by Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgård, are named LT. Alex Hopper and Commander Stone Hopper. Their last name was in honor of Rear Admiral Hopper.
Rear Admirmal Hopper passed on January 1, 1992 and was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery, Washington D.C., on January 7, 1992, with full military honors.
CPT Jonita Ruth Bonham
Jonita Ruth Bonham was born on April 2, 1922, in Bennington, OK.
Jonita graduated Nursing School at the University of Oklahoma and enlisted in the USAAF as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1944. After her training she was assigned to Air Med Evac units in the Pacific, she is stationed in the Philippines and Japan. However, after ww2 ended in 1945, she decides to leave the military. She has a break for about five years, but when the Korean War begins, and she volunteers to return to active duty.
She is granted the return to duty and also promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Jonita Bonham is assigned as a Flight Nurse with the 801st Air Medical Evacuation Squadron which is stationed in Japan. She is right back in the Pacific theater again.
This job she is now performing is relentless. I am completely convinced that nurses are cut from completely different cloth. This aircraft they are flying in a is C54 cargo plane, which is converted into an emergency flight hospital. There are so many med evac flights that her and the rest of the crew often have to survive off three-hour cat naps. They are constantly working.
On this team you have 1LT Bonham, Captain Vera Brown and a medical corpsman. In two months, she flies 245 hours, 170 of those hours are medical evacuation flights, and she assists with evacuating 600 wounded to safety. Some times they made two flights to Korea in one day.
On September 26, 1950 Jonita Bonham, the crew, were flying along with 50 troops aboard
It’s sort of a theme at this point with my stories, isn’t it?
Well, this aircraft suffers a major malfunction. It stalls and crashes into the ocean. Jonita finds her way to the surface and grabs onto the luggage that is floating nearby. There are 28 survivors. Several of the troops, along with Captain Vera Brown die in the crash.
Lt. Bonham is badly injured in the crash. But being the tough as nails woman that she was, she directs the evacuation of the survivors. This crash happens in the dark and they can hear planes fly over, but in the dark ocean, no one sees them. No one else is even aware that the plane crashed.
She is in the water, which is freezing, if you have even been in deep ocean water, you know that is no joke. She is injured, but she is still able to help the other survivors. Some of the men find a life raft and they don’t know how to open it, so she gives them directions.
The life raft inflates and she helps and guides 17 men to the life raft and it isn’t until they are all on board before she allows herself to be pulled out of the water. There ends up being a total of two life rafts that she has tied together.
These survivors spent three hours on the water before they were rescued by Japanese fishing boats. While they are floating out there, Lt Bonham is continuing to direct the men, calming the ones that started to panic.
This woman spends nine months recovering in the hospital. She had severe head injuries which required multiple surgeries, broken cheek bone, fractured skull, a fractured shoulder blade, and a broken wrist.
While in the hospital she is visited by, General Stratameyer who presents her with the Distinguished Flying Cross. She is the first flight nurse in Korea to receive this award.
She remained on active duty, until she is medically retired in 1952. Before that happened though, she was promoted to Captain and she also married her husband Major Clifford Bovee. They had three children together and on Christmas eve in 1994, Captain Jonita R. Bonham-Bovee passed away at her daughter home in Colorado.
She was a guest on THE ELEANOR ROOSEVELT PROGRAM July 24th, 1951 where she spoke about the crash. I think this quote is pretty telling of her character. She explains to the first lady at the time and the audience that:
“Well, when you’re in the water, you just have to relax, there’s nothing else you can do. And there was a lot of luggage floating, so first you hold onto that until it became pretty well waterlogged, and then when it becomes necessary to swim, we swam.” CPT Jonita Bonham 1951