Life Story: Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (1906-1992)

Groundbreaking Computer Programmer and Naval Officer

The story of a world-famous computer programmer whose impressive career in STEM began when she joined the war effort.

Grace Hopper’s graduation from Midshipman’s School, 1944

Grace Hopper upon graduation from Midshipman’s School, June 27, 1944. Grace Murray Hopper Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

The First “Computer Bug”

The First “Computer Bug”, September 9, 1945. Courtesy of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, VA., 1988. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR

Official portrait photograph of Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USNR, January 20, 1984. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Suggested Activities

  • Grace gave an interview to the Smithsonian Institution about her career. It includes a rich description of her time in the WAVES, among other things. Give students the opportunity to read excerpts pulled from the full transcript, available here.
  • Learn more about Grace Hopper and the development of the computer by combining this life story with the Silicon City curriculum guide. Lead students in the “PB&J” activity on page 23 to help them understand how computer programming works. 
  • Consider the important role women played in computer programming through the mid-20th century. Pair Grace’s life story with photographs of women computers and programmers in the Silicon City and WWII & NYC curriculum guides. 
  • Both Grace Hopper and Chien-Shiung Wu contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. Read both of their life stories to learn more about the many scientists who worked on this world-changing project. 
  • Learn more about the WAVES by connecting Grace’s life story to the newspaper article about WAVES uniforms and additional resources available in the WWII & NYC curriculum guide. Expand the study to include other branches of the military by reading Grace Thorpe’s life story and the Life magazine WAAC profiles



Source Notes