Grace Hopper working on the the UNIVAC I computer

Google doodle for COBOL programming language inventor

The US Navy Rear Admiral responsible for creating the coding language COBOL has been honoured with a Google doodle.

Computer scientist Grace Hopper, who would have been 107 today, was the first to come up with the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL – one of the first modern programming languages.

Born in New York City in 1906, she graduated from Vassar College in 1928 with a degree in Mathematics and Physics before going on to earn her Master's and PhD at Yale.

She returned to teach mathematics at Vassar in 1931, where she was promoted to associate professor in 1941, before joining the Navy Reserve during World War II as a computer programmer, where she was assigned to work on the IBM-built Harvard Mark I computer.

Hopper worked in and out of the Navy until her retirement at the age of 60, although she was recalled to active duty twice, finally retiring at the age of 79 at the rank of Rear Admiral.

In the 1950s she developed the first compiler, a program that transforms source code written in a programming language into object code, which is normally binary, so as to create executable programs.

She devised the program while working on the UNIVAC I, the second commercial computer produced in the USA, for Remington Rand  and by 1952 she had an operational compiler, but reportedly complained that nobody believed her.

"I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it,” she said, according to a 1987 Online Computer Library Center newsletter. “They told me computers could only do arithmetic."

Arguably her biggest contribution to computer science was the creation of COBOL, an acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language, which was a combination of Hopper's FLOW-MATIC language with some ideas from the IBM equivalent COMTRAN. COBOL would go on to be one of the most ubiquitous business programming languages to date and is still widely used today.

Hopper is also credited with coining the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches after an actual moth was found in a computer she was working on that was slowing down its processes.

Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the US Department of Defense and both the US Navy destroyer USS Hopper and the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center are named after her.

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