Child Who Fled Antisemitic Russian Pogroms Grows up to Become the "Father of the Nuclear Navy"

New York, NY (February 10, 2022)

Hyman George Rickover (1899–1986), born Chaim Godalia Rykower in a Polish shtetl fled from antisemitic pogroms during the Russian Revolution of 1905. After arriving in the United States, Rickover’s family moved to Chicago after leaving New York City. His father worked as a tailor, and he got his first job at 9.

How did a child from humble beginnings grow up to become the “Father of the Nuclear Navy” and the longest-serving U.S. military officer in history?

Hyman, a brilliant engineer with a ferocious will, and an unrelenting work ethic oversaw the invention of the world’s first practical nuclear power reactor. As important as the transition from sail to steam, his development of nuclear-propelled submarines and ships transformed naval power.

According to Lauren Gilbert, Senior Manager of Public Services at the Center for Jewish History, “Rickover was a hugely influential figure in the Navy, and one whose story is not well-known. It is fascinating to learn how this man of contradictions, with a famously difficult personality, overcame so many obstacles on his unlikely rise to power.”

In a new biography in the Jewish Lives series at Yale University Press, independent historian and award-winning freelance journalist Marc Wortman, PhD, explores the constant conflict Rickover faced and provoked, tracing how he revolutionized the navy and Cold War strategy. Wortman will be in conversation with Bruce E. Kahn, retired U.S. Navy Chaplain and Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Sholom in Chevy Chase, MD, who co-officiated at Rickover’s memorial service. The program will stream live on Thursday, February 17th at 6:3pm.

This program is co-sponsored by the American Jewish Historical Society and is funded, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.