Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, was born in Makow, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire), on 27 January 1900. At the age of 6, he came to the United States, settling in Chicago. Rickover entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1918 and was commissioned an ensign in June 1922. Following sea duty aboard the destroyer USS La Vallette (DD-315) and the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36), he attended Columbia University, where he earned a master of science degree in electrical engineering. From 1929 to 1933, Rickover qualified for submarine duty and command aboard the submarines USS S-9 (SS-114) and USS S- 48 (SS-159). In June 1937, he assumed command of the minesweeper USS Finch (AM-9). Later that year, he was selected as an engineering duty officer and spent the remainder of his career serving in that specialty.
During World War II, Admiral Rickover served as head of the Electrical Section of the Bureau of Ships and later as commanding officer of Naval Repair Base, Okinawa. In 1946, he was assigned to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and, in early 1949, to the Division of Reactor Development, AEC.
As director of the Naval Reactors Branch, Admiral Rickover developed the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), which went to sea in 1955. In the years that followed, Admiral Rickover directed all aspects of building and operating the nuclear fleet.
Admiral Rickover's numerous medals and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Navy Commendation Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. In recognition of his wartime service, he was made Honorary Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Admiral Rickover was twice awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for exceptional public service. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented Admiral Rickover with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest non-military honor, for his contributions to world peace.
Admiral Rickover retired from the United States Navy on 31 January 1982, after more than 63 years of service to his country and to 13 Presidents. His name is memorialized in Rickover Hall at the Naval Academy, and two attack submarines, the now-decommissioned USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) and Pre-Commissioning Unit Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795). Admiral Rickover died on 8 July 1986 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi named Admiral Rickover as one of the “Top Ten Engineers of the Twentieth Century” in December 1999.