Monday, 31 May 2010

Book afterthought: “The Rickover Effect” by Theodore Rockwell

Score: 4.5/5

This book is an account of Admiral Hyman Rickover’s life in the navy written by one of his trusted subordinates Mr. Theodore Rockwell.  Though not well known by many outside of the Navy/Nuclear industry, Admiral Rickover drove the development of nuclear submarines and the thus the industries from which nuclear power generation became possible.  His determination, moral values, and multi dimensional personality both inspires and puzzles me.  There are nevertheless many great lessons from him.  Below is the story that stuck out the most for me.

In a class of physics students many years ago, nuclear physics was being taught by a famous professor named Frederick Seitz.  Among this class were some navy personnel, training for the nuclear projects they are to contribute to in the future.  During class, a gray-haired gentleman kept asking some fundamental and simple questions, causing some ridicule from classmates.  Even after 2 times explaining the same concept, the gentleman still replied “I still don’t understand, professor”.  To which the professor asked “would you like me to give you extra help every afternoon”?  The gentleman replied “that would be great professor, I much appreciate it”.

When the extra help session began, the professor, the gray-haired gentleman, and many classmates, including the ones who ridiculed the gentleman, were in it.  Apparently, the gentleman wasn’t the only one that didn’t understand the material, but he was the only one who was willing to admit it.

That gentleman was Hyman Rickover, “the Father of the Nuclear Navy”.

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