Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, directed the original development of naval nuclear propulsion and controlled its operations for three decades as director of Naval Reactors. In addition, he oversaw the development of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the world’s first commercial pressurized water reactor used for generating electricity.
Known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, Rickover’s profound effects on the Navy and its most powerful warships were of such scope that he “may well go down in history as one of the Navy’s most important officers.” A naval officer who served in a flag rank for nearly 30 years – from 1953 to 1982 – Rickover was promoted to four-star admiral after 51 years of commissioned service. In total, with his unique personality, political connections, responsibilities, and depth of knowledge regarding naval nuclear propulsion, Rickover became the longest-serving naval officer in U.S. history with 63 years of active duty service.
Rickover was born Chaim Godalia Rickover, to Abraham Rickover and Rachel (née Unger) Rickover, a Polish-Jewish family in Maków Mazowiecki, Poland, at that time ruled by the Russian Empire. 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 village and the estate of Ryki, located within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of Warsaw, as is Maków Mazowiecki.