Grace Hopper is one of the most important and amazing figures in the history of computers. She worked on one of the first computers, the Harvard Mark I, which was an electro-mechanical computer that ran vital calculations during WWII. Though a mathematician and a naval officer, she had a deeply humanitarian sensibility which lead her to major innovations. This includes the first compiler, which allowed people to write code in a human-readable language and have their programs converted to machine language by the compiler. This also had the practical advantage of decoupling software from hardware. Her dry sense of humor and winning charm enabled her to work successfully in teams, in an era and environment where this was not easy for women (though many of these problems are still with us in even more complicated forms). Hopper is a figure with the the unique combination of mathematical and engineering intellect, unparalleled commitment to her work, charm, and an understated but incredibly bold creativity. She was a pioneer in a field that would redefine the world, before it even existed as a field. She was in many ways an outsider, but comfortable with the unknown and inspired to make a difference. We are all fortunate to have the benfits her many accomplishments.
The automata of Pierre Jaquet-Droz are complex mechanical devices that prefigure the mechanical computers that were to come the following centuries. These delightful little robots performed music, writing, and drawing. This shows the historical connect between the advance of technology, the arts, and a general sense of wonder. These devices are incredibly complex, but they maintain a lovely sense of poetry and grace.
These pieces have a nice resonance with the drawing work that we are doing in class currently.