Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a four-decade veteran of the United States Navy and a mathematician who made pioneering contributions to computer programming, died New Year's Day at her home in Arlington, Va. She was 85 years old. At the time of her death, Hopper was employed as a senior consultant at Digital Equipment Corp. of Maynard, Mass.; until the spring of 1990, she was actively representing the company at industry forums.

Last September, Hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology for her contributions to the development of computer programming languages. She was the first woman to receive the award as an individual. Hopper helped invent the COBOL programming language, widely used in business. In addition, her work led to the development of the first practical compiler program for modern computers.

After earning her Ph.D. in mathematics at Yale University in 1934, Hopper joined the math department of Vassar...

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