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Hyman George Rickover Edit Profile

Government official , military , Naval officer

Hyman George Rickover was U.S. naval officer, known for supervising the development of the first atomic submarine — thus inaugurating the American nuclear-powered Beet — and for his outspoken efforts on behalf of the improvement of American education.


Rickover was born Chaim Godalia Rickover, to Abraham Rickover and Rachel (née Unger) Rickover, a Polish-Jewish family from Maków Mazowiecki, in Russian Poland. His parents later changed his name to "Hyman," which, like Chaim, is derived from Chayyim, meaning "life." He did not use his middle name, Godalia (a form of Gedaliah), but when required to list one for the Naval Academy oath, he substituted "George". The family name "Rickover" is derived from the Polish town of Ryki.


Rickover made passage to New York City with his mother and sister in March 1906, fleeing anti-Semitic Russian pogroms during the Revolution of 1905 and joining Abraham, who had made earlier, initial trips there beginning in 1897 to become established. Rickover's immediate family lived initially on the East Side of Manhattan and moved two years later to the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago, which at that time was a heavily Jewish neighborhood, where Rickover's father continued work as a tailor. Rickover took his first paid job at nine years of age, earning three cents an hour for holding a light as his neighbor operated a machine. Later, he delivered groceries. He graduated from grammar school at 14.

While attending John Marshall High School in Chicago (from which he graduated with honors in 1918), Rickover held a full-time job as a telegraph boy delivering Western Union telegrams, through which he became acquainted with U.S. Congressman Adolph J. Sabath, himself a Czech Jewish immigrant. Through the intervention of a family friend, Sabath nominated Rickover for appointment to the United States Naval Academy. Rickover was only a third alternate for appointment, but through disciplined self-directed study and good fortune, Rickover passed the entrance exam and was accepted.


After graduating in 1922, he served at sea for five years before returning to school to study electrical engineering in Annapolis and at Columbia University and submarine science at a submarine base in Connecticut. Subsequently he continued to serve in both land and sea posts, gradually rising through the navy hierarchy. In 1937 he received his first command post in the Philippines, and in 1939, went back to the United State to head the Electrical Section of the Bureau of Ships in Washington, where he continued to serve throughout World War II. In 1946 he was assigned to participate in the development of the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was there that he gained the experience that motivated his belief in, and plans for, a nuclear-powered submarine.

Fighting opposition from his superiors, he managed to obtain an assignment at the Atomic Energy Commission as head of the Naval Reactors Branch, which allowed him, in 1947, to begin working on construction of a reactor to power the nuclear submarine. His plans, which called for expenditures of more than forty million dollars, were considered risky and inordinately expensive, but he was determined and stubbornly pushed them through, alienating many government officials in the process. The submarine Nautilus, was launched in 1954.

When construction of Nautilus was well under way, he began designing a nuclear aircraft carrier and a second nuclear submarine, but controversy over his naval status prevented them from making progress. He had been passed over for promotion to admiral twice, an omission that theoretically required his retirement from the navy. However, an investigation was prompted by congressional leaders, who suspected that his superiors had deliberately failed to promote him, and he was made rear admiral in 1953.

He held influential positions in the navy for almost thirty years, but became more and more alienated from its leadership because he was so often in conflict with members of the navy establishment. He openly criticized the navy, and other aspects of American life, especially the American education system, which he compared unfavorably with its British counterpart. He loudly criticized the military-industrial complex, decrying the ties.


  • The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was named for him. It was commissioned two years before the admiral's death, making it one of the relatively few United States Navy ships to be named for a living person. USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was launched on August 27, 1983, sponsored by the admiral's second wife, Mrs. Eleonore Ann Bednowicz Rickover, commissioned on July 21, 1984, and deactivated on December 14, 2006.

    In 2015, the Navy announced that a new Virginia class submarine, USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795), would be named for Rickover.

    Rickover Hall at the United States Naval Academy, houses the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Naval Architecture, Ocean Engineering, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering. Rickover Center at Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, where officer and enlisted U.S. Navy personnel begin their engineering training, is located at Joint Base Charleston.



Married Ruth D. Masters (deceased 1972). 1 son, Robert Masters. Married Eleonore Ann Bednowicz, 1974.

Ruth D. Masters

Robert Masters

Eleonore Ann Bednowicz