Grace earned her PhD in Math from Yale University in 1934. When WWII started, she joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the programming team for the Mark I, one of the world’s earliest computers. This computer was used for many military calculations, most notably The Manhattan Project.
After the war Grace continued her work in computing. She invented the first compiler in 1952, but it took two years for people to actually believe that it worked. It’s hard to imagine computers today without compilers, and the structure of programming languages today is largely due to her efforts in this area.
Grace Hopper is also often credited with finding the first “computer bug,” an actual moth that got into the Mark II computer and caused an error. It’s not clear whether she coined the term or just found an actual bug that was causing a “bug,” but it’s an amusing anecdote to remember the leading lady of computers.
Today, she is memorialized in the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a series of conferences where women from all over the world come to share ideas and learn from each other. Sponsored by Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery, it’s the largest gathering of women in technology, attracting over 12,000 attendees in 2015.