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On January 17, 1955, Admiral Hyman Rickover saw one of his life’s dreams become reality. On that memorable winter day, the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine set out from Groton, Connecticut. It was the first ship of any kind to be powered by nuclear energy, and Rickover was responsible for this technological milestone.

Born in Russia, Rickover moved to Illinois with his family when he was a child. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he earned an advanced degree in engineering at Columbia University. Rickover served on submarines in the 1930’s and steadily advanced through the navy ranks. When nuclear energy was harnessed during World War II, he was sure that it could be used to power submarines, and he persuaded the navy to put him in charge of building such a ship. The Nautilus was the successful result of his efforts.

Later, Rickover led the development of other nuclear-powered naval ships, including aircraft carriers. He also was instrumental in the building of the first large nuclear-power plant in the U.S. Some naval personnel disliked his abrupt manner and disdain for red tape. But all agreed that his drive, energy, and vision had served the navy—and the country—well.

Rickover served a record 63 years as a U.S. Navy officer before retiring in 1982.

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