Born in New York, Grace Hopper was bright and burned with curiosity. She was a mathematical genius – studying for her maths and physics degree at Vassar College, before going to Yale to get her Masters.
She then split her time between the two – earning a living teaching maths at Vassar while being one of the few women of the time studying for their PhD at Yale. And, as if that wasn't enough, she even took a sabbatical at NYU to study with the renowned mathematician Richard Courant.
In 1943 Pearl Harbour took place. Grace tried to follow in the footsteps of her great grandfather and join the US Navy, but was rejected on several counts: her skills were needed to teach young minds at Vassar, she was too old (at the ‘grand’ age of 34), and her height-weight ratio fell short of the minimum.
But, like any New Yorker, Grace wasn't deterred. Instead, she joined the US Women's Naval Reserve. And she thrived not in one, but in two, very different male-dominated worlds - civilian and military. And still continued to nurture the curious minds of tomorrow - something she often said was the proudest achievement of her life.
When it came to computers, there were few programming pies she did not have her fingers in.
It was joining the military that kickstarted her interest and career in computing. She was one of the first three programmers to work with the Mark I computer (and the first person to ever write a computer-programming manual - totaling 561 pages). Grace went on to programme its successors - the Mark II and III computers, all at Harvard. And, later, she was lead programmer on the UNIVAC I. All with a trademark humour and often with the nickname ‘Amazing Grace’.
Grace believed the dumbest phrase in the English language was: 'It's always been done this way'.' And she lived by that every day.
She believed that the world of computing could be opened up if only something was created to translate instructions from English (or any language, for that matter) into computer code, and vice versa. But it wasn't easy. The door was repeatedly slammed in her face. She was told it was impossible and that computers were only capable of arithmetic. But she didn't give up and, when the company she worked for was bought three years after she joined, finally someone gave her the chance she'd been fighting for: she invented one of the first 'compilers' (later called a 'linker') in the world.
She also invented the first patch – making her one of the first hackers – and maintained that, although support should be paid for, software should be free to access.
Unsurprisingly, Grace was an integral part of the team that developed the first English-programming language - Flow-Matic. Which led to the creation of Common Business-Orientated Language (COBOL). She even coined the phrase 'debugging' after they found a pesky moth in the Mark II.
Because Grace bridged the military and civilian life seamlessly, and was pursuant in her programming quest, she played an irreplaceable role in convincing both sides to adopt advances in computing, like the standardised language systems.
Grace was so in demand that she retired and was re-commissioned twice from the US Navy. When she did finally leave the military she was 79 – the oldest serving officer – and had made the rank of Rear Admiral. And had left an indelible mark on the evolution of computer technology.
But she never tired in challenging the status quo. Which is why she's not only our namesake but our daily inspiration.
We know that there's incredible women, like Grace, out there. And a huge funding gap exists in female-founded and female-led startups which we’re keen to close.
The Hopper doesn't just offer funding and let you go on your merry way. We know that capital is such a small part of why startups fail. So, we offer support, across the entire ecosystem, whether you're at the ideation, incubation, or acceleration stage.
So, if you think you're the next Grace Hopper, drop us a line.
We can't wait to hear from you.
We’re The Hopper - a new tech incubator helping startups at the seed and pre-seed stage, across ideation, incubation, and acceleration. We’re keen to close the funding gap for female-founded and female-led startups, but open to hearing from all badass humans, no matter how they identify.
Visit www.thehopper.tech to find out more.