Grace Hopper Quotes

Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Man with Mark I computer's wiring
Man with Mark I computer's wiring. Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper helped to develop an early computer, invented the compiler making possible higher level computer languages, and helped to define the design of the programming language COBOL. First a member of the WAVES and the US Naval Reserve, Grace Hopper retired from the Navy several times before returning and gaining the rank of Rear Admiral.

Selected Grace Hopper Quotations

  1. I’ve always objected to doing anything over again if I had already done it once. 
  1. From then on, when anything went wrong with a computer, we said it had bugs in it.
  2. If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.
  3. It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
  4. The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."
  5. Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.
  6. A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.
  7. You don't manage people, you manage things. You lead people.
  8. Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew.
  9. One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.
  10. Some day, on the corporate balance sheet, there will be an entry which reads, "Information"; for in most cases, the information is more valuable than the hardware which processes it.
  1. We're flooding people with information. We need to feed it through a processor. A human must turn information into intelligence or knowledge. We've tended to forget that no computer will ever ask a new question.
  2. There sat that beautiful big machine whose sole job was to copy things and do addition. Why not make the computer do it? That’s why I sat down and wrote the first compiler. It was very stupid. What I did was watch myself put together a program and make the computer do what I did. 
  1. To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.
  2. They told me computers could only do arithmetic.
  3. In pioneer days they used oxen for heavy pulling, and when one ox couldn't budge a log, they didn't try to grow a larger ox. We shouldn't be trying for bigger computers, but for more systems of computers.
  4. Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems.
  5. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of Washington.
  6. At any given moment, there is always a line representing what your boss will believe. If you step over it, you will not get your budget. Go as close to that line as you can.
  7. I seem to do a lot of retiring.
  8. I handed my passport to the immigration officer, and he looked at it and looked at me and said, "What are you?"
  9. Kathleen Broome Williams about Hopper: “It was warm in the summer of 1945; the windows were always open and the screens were not very good. One day the Mark II stopped when a relay failed. They finally found the cause of the failure: inside one of the relays, beaten to death by the contacts, was a moth. The operator carefully fished it out with tweezers, taped it in the logbook, and wrote under it 'first actual bug found.'”

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    About These Quotes

    Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis.  This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.