Category Archives: Grace Hopper

A Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For

John A. Shedd? Grace Hopper? Anonymous?

harbor01Dear Quote Investigator: On December 9, 2013 the Google Doodle honored the pioneering computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Here are two versions of a quotation that is often attributed to her:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for.

This saying has also been credited to John A. Shedd. Can you tell me who said it?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 John A. Shedd released a collection of sayings titled “Salt from My Attic”, and the following popular aphorism was included:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

This citation appeared in the important reference work “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 1

Grace Hopper also employed a version of this expression on multiple occasions. For example, in 1981 Hopper spoke an instance of the adage with “port” instead of “harbor”. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: John A. Shedd, Page 705, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)