As a young girl Grace Brewster Murray had an unusually inquisitive mind. One day, when she was seven years old, she disassembled an alarm clock to see how it worked. Unable to get it back together, she got another and took it apart as well. By the time she was finished her quest, all seven of the household alarm clocks lay in pieces.
But Grace Hopper (she married Vincent Hopper in 1930) put her inquisitiveness to good use, becoming the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University. When she joined the Navy in 1943, a wise detailer assigned her to work in the Bureau of Ordnance in a special program known as the "Computation Project," where she became one of the programmers of the world's first large-scale computer. No desktop PC, this machine was 51 feet long, 8 feet high, and 5 feet deep.
After the war, she worked on a new machine called "Univac." With its arrays of vacuum tubes and magnetic drums, this was the first machine that could rightfully be called an electronic computer. Hopper was instrumental in creating the first language that allowed programmers to speak to computers with words rather than numbers.