Admiral Hyman George Rickover
Admiral Hyman George Rickover, U.S. Navy, was known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”, which as of July 2007 had produced 200 nuclear-powered submarines, and 23 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and cruisers, though many of these U.S. vessels are now decommissioned and others under construction.
With his unique personality, political connections, responsibilities and depth of knowledge regarding naval nuclear propulsion, Rickover became the longest-serving active duty military officer in U.S. history with 63 years of continuous service. Rickover’s substantial legacy of technical achievements includes the U.S. Navy’s continuing record of zero reactor accidents, as defined by the uncontrolled release of fission products subsequent to reactor core damage.
He was born in Russian Poland in 1900 to Rachel, nee Unger, and Abraham Rickover, a tailor who brought his family to Chicago. After completing high school in 1918, Rickover received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he was often confronted with anti-Semitism. He graduated in 1922 and was commissioned an ensign. Assigned to sea duty, he remained there for five years before being assigned to the Naval Academy to do graduate work in electrical engineering. He continued his studies at Columbia University where he received his M.S. degree in 1929.
When he was a child still living in Russian-occupied Poland, Rickover was not allowed to attend public schools because of his Jewish faith. Starting at the age of four, he attended a religious school where the teaching was solely from the Old Testament in Hebrew. School hours were from sunrise to sunset, six days a week.
Following his formal education in the U.S. as described above and the birth of his son, Robert, Admiral Rickover developed a decades-long and outspoken interest in the educational standards of the United States. Rickover was particularly of the opinion that U.S. standards of education were unacceptably low. His first book centered on education and was a collection of essays calling for improved standards of education, particularly in math and science, entitled Education and Freedom. In this book, the Admiral states that, “education is the most important problem facing the United States today and only the massive upgrading of the scholastic standards of our schools will guarantee the future prosperity and freedom of the Republic.”
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