Hyman George Rickover was born on 27 January 1900 (1898 according to school records) in the village of Makow. At the time this was in the Russian Empire, some 50 miles north of Warsaw. His father was a tailor who emigrated to New York at the turn of the century; several years later he sent for his family to join him in the United States. Hyman Rickover attended school in the Chicago area after his family had moved there in 1908.
In 1918 he entered the US Naval Academy. During the Second World War he served as head of the electrical section of the navy's Bureau of Ships. In 1946 he was assigned to the atomic submarine project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was a major factor in convincing the US Navy that nuclear sea power was feasible, and directed the planning and construction of the world's first atomic-powered submarine, the USSNautilus, launched in 1954. He was also involved in many more of the US Navy's nuclear-powered ship projects.
Although no anglophile, he gave great assistance to the Royal Navy as they developed their own nuclear submarine programme. Rickover later became chief of the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission and was in charge of the nuclear propulsion division of the Navy's Bureau of Ships.
His extraordinary naval career was marked by controversy. Rickover never commanded a ship - at a time when this was thought essential for people destined for senior rank. He held outspoken opinions and would not tolerate dissent. His single-minded purpose was to drive through his own ideas for nuclear-powered vessels and to block alternative ideas. Ultimately this provided the US Navy with a powerful fleet of nuclear-powered surface vessels and submarines ,but probably at the expense of more cost-effective innovative designs.
He was finally promoted to rear admiral (1953), vice admiral (1958), and admiral (1973). In a situation unlikely ever to be repeated he was listed as on active duty until 1981. He retired the following year.