This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the world’s first computer scientist. Thanks to Sydney Padua for making the distinction in interviews. Padua is the writer of the terrific book The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (go buy it, already!) and the creator of this beautiful illustration to mark this special day.
“Your Neighbors” column
The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, October 13, 1957
Two men developed the electronic computer. But a woman, Dr.
Grace Murray Hopper, is pointing out ways for people to outsmart
the machine. As director of automatic programming research
for the Sperry Rand Corp. her job is sort of liaison between man and
Scientists once spent as long as 12 weeks learning to pose their problems
to the machine (this is “programming”). To Dr. Hopper, this was
making man work for the machine instead of machine for the man. Her
article, “The Education of the Computer,” gives methods for reversing
In her office there is nothing mechanical about her method of running
the research division of 60-some employes. She selects each for
ability—not because one is a man or a woman, an oldster or a youngster,
a college graduate or non-graduate. “Setting a college degree or age
limit as a condition of employment means to me that the personnel
officer is lazy,” she says. She herself has three degrees—B.A. from
Vassar in 1928, M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale. After teaching mathematics
at Vassar 13 years she left an assistant professorship to join the Navy
in 1944. As ordnance officer in the WAVES she worked with early
digital computers, now is a commander in the Naval Reserve. She
lives at the Rittenhouse Claridge, owns a farmhouse in New Hampshire.