Grace Murray Hopper, Computer Science Pioneer, Great Talk Show Guest

Departments: Computer Science

David Letterman: “How did you know so much about computers then?”

Grace Murray Hopper: “I didn’t. It was the first one.”

With the news this weekend that the former Calhoun College would be renamed in honor of Yale alumnus Grace Murray Hopper, a computer science pioneer and Naval officer, we thought it would be a good time to post a classic clip of Hopper as a guest on the David Letterman Show, from October of 1986 (at age 79, she had recently retired as a rear admiral in the Navy and the oldest active military officer). Hopper, who received a master’s degree in mathematics in 1930 and a Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1934 from Yale, was one of the first original computer programmers and made major contributions to the development of computer languages.

She literally wrote the book (a 561-page user manual) for the first electromechanical computer, the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, better known as the Mark I.

In addition to her accomplishments (and you can read about many more here), the clip below also shows what a quick wit she possessed.