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February 27, 1961

Commander Grace Murray Hopper ’28, director for research programming for Remington Rand UNIVAC, gave the first Centennial Mathematics Lecture, on “New Languages.” “Research consists in discovering the obvious,” she began, adding, according to Babs Currier ’63, writing in The Miscellany News, that mathematics gives researchers in pursuit of the obvious “the special ability to think by different means in solving problems.” Currier found it “fascinating to realize that computers can be taught a language rather than numbers which can be manipulated by familiar operations in order to solve problems involving a conglomeration of data.”

A commander in the Naval Reserves, Hopper was working to transform her compiler-based FLOW-MATIC programming language into the new language, COBOL, which became the fundamental business programming language. In 1967, Hopper became director of the Navy Programming Group responsible for the COBOL standardization for the entire Navy.

The Years