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Hyman George Rickover

RICKOVER, HYMAN GEORGE (1900–1986), U.S. naval officer; "father" of the atomic-powered submarine. Rickover, born in Russian Poland, was taken by his family to Chicago in 1906, where his father became a tailor. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1922 and was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy.

After sea duty, Rickover studied electrical engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and Columbia University. He served aboard submarines for three years and then held increasingly important staff and command positions. During World War II Rickover headed the Electrical Section, Bureau of Ships in the Navy Department, and was decorated for his effectiveness in obtaining men and materials to produce electric power and equipment necessary for naval shipbuilding and maintenance. Serving at Oak Ridge in 1946, site of the development of the atomic bomb, and visiting other nuclear research installations, Rickover became convinced of the feasibility of constructing nuclear-powered submarines. Almost alone against considerable opposition, he persuaded the navy to undertake the effort in late 1947. Rickover was soon placed in charge of the project, working with the Atomic Energy Commission, which designed and built the reactors. The "Nautilus," the first atomic-powered submarine in the world, was launched in January 1954. Despite his success, Rickover would have been forced to retire in 1953 if Congressional intervention had not kept him on duty and ensured his subsequent promotions to rear admiral and vice admiral. He made other contributions to nuclear-power developments, was active in the field of education, and received many decorations. In 1973 Rickover was promoted full admiral. In 1979 he was awarded the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award and in the following year the Medal of Freedom by President Carter.


C. Blair, The Atomic Submarine and Admiral Rickover (1954).