Theodore Rockwell

The Naval Institute Hardback (Out of print)

John Wiley Paperback (Out of Print)

In 1952, Captain Rickover and his team examine a model of the submarine NAUTILUS, still a dream. Clockwise from Rickover are Robert Laney, the author, Robert Panoff, Ethel Weyant, "Dixie" Davis, Harry Mandil, Edwin Kintner, Louis Roddis

Nobelist Glenn Seaborg, Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, congratulates Mandil, Panoff and Rockwell on founding of MPR Associates, 1964.

Rickover's old teammates rejoin him in 1983 for the launching of the submarine H.G.RICKOVER. Front row: Edwin Kintner, Robert Panoff, HGR, Charles Weaver. Back row: Howard Marks, James Dunford, author, Harry Mandil, John O'Grady, Jack Hinchey.

Excerpts from Reviews

Rockwell, Rickover’s former Technical Director, has written a notable, anecdote-rich biography of the controversial “father of the nuclear navy.”…In lay language, Rockwell explains how [Rickover] accomplished this amazing feat. For one thing, Rickover gave new meaning to the concept of industrial quality control. Rockwell also makes clear why his former boss was widely feared, and provides examples of his unique ability to infuriate as well as inspire. Also, Rockwell demonstrates Rickover’s genius for getting things done. - Publisher’s Weekly

This thought-provoking, well-written and stimulating book is not a standard biography of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the father of nuclear naval propulsion. Rather, it deals with this remarkable man’s philosophy regarding professional competence and work ethics . . . Rockwell calls this influence “The Rickover Effect,” a rippling outward flow of Rickover’s per-sonality that extends beyond the bounds of his life. It is an honest tribute to a man whose greatness will one day be recognized even more than it is today. - Associated Press (Norman N. Brown)

Together with Rhodes’ definitive [best-selling, Pulitzer Prize winning] account of the…race to develop a nuclear bomb, these two works constitute the most important contributions to date on the history of atomic energy. - Nuclear News (Lawrence Ruby)

Rockwell has neatly used existing histories as a framework for his personal recollections of what it was like to work for Rickover…a lively but serious account of scores of incidents that illustrate Rickover’s extraordinary skills and personality. This is the stuff that many histori-ans would like to include in a book but cannot afford to use. The book is vintage Rickover and thus a welcome addition to our understanding of this remarkable man. - Technology & Culture (R.G. Hewlett)

This book is not just a history of accomplishments or a biography; it is much more. It gives us insights into the vision, philosophy, ethics, methods, and values behind the history and biography…Rockwell has made the book thoroughly understandable, entertaining, thought-provoking, and stimulating to anyone and everyone. - Nuclear Technology (T.J. Iltis)

[The author} was immensely respected by Rickover. The Admiral admired his technical competence as well as his good judgment and versatility in a host of other problem areas, including political. Because of this, and blessed with the ability to track and report events in detail, he was the ideal person to write this book. . . Thus, The Rickover Effect is much more than the story of a great technological achievement. . . This is a very readable book. The writer has a fine ability to describe technical things in easily understood ways. - The Submarine Review (CAPT William R. Anderson, USN, ret.)

This is an interesting book, particularly for anyone familiar with the nuclear Navy and interested in understanding how Rickover managed to develop a unique operation with a large bureaucracy. . . the book is also valuable because it provides insight into a certain system of task-management: one that focuses on extraordinarily hard work, that demands constant dedication to a clear set of objectives and that has little, if any, tolerance for human frailty. It is not necessarily a system to be emulated, but it is an important model to be understood. - American Scientist (John F. Ahearne, PhD)

This book describes in detail and with wit…the difficult, stubborn man whose single-minded drive made his relationship with the Navy volatile and contentious.- Reference & Research Book News

…a riveting piece of recent history. - New Scientist

This is a candid, insightful portrait as only an insider could write it and adds to what we already know about one of this country’s most controversial and elusive personalities. It shows a Rickover who was fierce, supportive, idealistic, pragmatic, sensitive and at times very cruel. . . Overall, this is an interesting book which presents Rickover from a different perspective than previously written. - The Friday Review of Defense Literature (CAPT G.V. Ned-erveen, USAF)

This book is a treasure trove of information. . . There are no coverups of the roadblocks put up by the Navy and the Atomic Energy Commission. . . and Rickover’s warts and blemishes are also shown full-sized. - The Oak Ridger (Elsie Schmied)

The book is not hagiography. . . Rickover-as-man is only half of Mr. Rockwell’s theme. By the “Rickover Effect,” the author means the bow wave of innovation and reform that flowed from Rickover’s projects: everything from technical advances in related fields to new educational standards and ways of doing business. Mr. Rockwell concludes, Rickover’s career validates the old cliche that “one man can make a difference.” - The Washington Times (Philip Gold)

Rockwell has made an interesting and captivating story out of the career of Admiral Rickover. He brings out the character of the man who was able to work and fight for his objectives against the most powerful people in the government and the military, and yet gain their respect and admiration. This massive book can be a textbook case for study on political science, industrial management, psychology and motivation. It is a detailed record of one of the most important achievements in military and scientific work. - B’nai B’rith Messenger (Soll H. Marshall)

[This book] shows that there’s nothing more important than hiring the right people…second, that in hiring the right person one can’t be demanding enough; and third, it’s one hell of a story of a man who wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best. - Across the Board (A.J. Vogl, Editor)

An intimate portrait of Rickover by a man who worked closely with him for many years and knew him well. A serious and important book. - Dr. Francis Duncan, USAEC historian, author of Rickover and the Nuclear Navy

Rockwell, who spent many years as Rickover’s technical director and confidante, has written a book that is less a pure biography than an exploration of courage, innovation and allegiance to ideals…Whatever one’s view of nuclear power, this lively firsthand account evokes admiration for the sweep of Rickover’s vision and the sheer nerve that carried him to his dream. The “Rickover effect” is Rockwell’s metaphor for the mental discipline and demand for excellence that is as crucial to success today as in Rickover’s era. - Brain/​Mind and Common Sense (Eric Ferguson)

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s technical director for ten years, the author draws on his close relationship with the admiral to present a candid and revealing biography of the man who made naval nuclear power a reality. - Naval Institute Proceedings (Editor)

This fascinating book is not a biography but rather a memoir with a purpose. The purpose is to show, by anecdote and example, the Rickover style and how it was used to create the nuclear Navy…succeeds in not varnishing over, or sliding by, the thorny aspects of Admiral Rickover’s personality and career.…The book reflects the flavor, the methods and the results well. It is not only a lesson in a way of doing things, it is a fascinating tale as well. - Physics Today (Robert A. Frosh)

A detailed and exciting account…shows how well-educated and gifted individuals can have enormous effects upon modern technology and society. Students and teachers who are gifted in science and mathematics should read [it]. - Gifted Education News-Page

As for the book, it is just plain great.…For those looking for a good story or are interested in learning how our nuclear navy came about, this book’s for you. - Maine Coastal News

The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference, Naval Institute Press hardback, 1992. Chinese language edition, 1994. John Wiley paperback, 1995. Now available from the Authors Guild backinprint program through iUniverse.

Reader's Digest Chinese and Korean edition excerpts


Foreword by Admiral James D. Watkins, USN (ret.)
Prologue: The Public Rickover
Part I: Getting Ready (1939-1947)
Part II: Building a Decisive Weapon (1947-1952)
Part III: Putting the Atom to Work (1950-1957)
Part IV: Upgrading the Quality of U.S. Industry (1955-1960)
Part V: Proclaiming the Need for Excellence (1959-64)
Part VI: Extending the Rickover Effect (1964-1986)
A. The First Fifteen Years: Naval Reactors Technical Personnel
B. Naval Reactors Supply Corps Personnel
C. Naval Reactors Civil Engineer Corps Personnel
D. Naval Reactors WAVE Officer Personnel

Part I: Getting Ready (1939-1947)

Frontier Life among the Atom Splitters
Starting Work in the Secret City
I Meet Captain Rickover
Rickover Revealed
Coming to America and Getting Started
The Naval Academy Years
Engineering Duty on the La Vallette and Nevada
Graduate Work at the Academy and at Columbia University
Submarine School and Sea Duty on the S-48
At the Office of the Inspector of Naval Material
Engineering Duty on the New Mexico
Command of the Finch
Duty in the Philippines
Buildup of the Electrical Section, Bureau of Ships
Mechanicsburg and Okinawa
Mothballing the Pacific Fleet
Extending the Effect: Manufacturers
Assignment to Oak Ridge
Roddis Gets the Word at Bikini
Dick and Dunford Join the Team
Formulating a Game Plan
Defining the Organizational Approach
The Naval Group’s Grand Tour
A Prophet in His Own Land

Part II: Building a Decisive Weapon (1947-1952)
Rising from the Ashes
Taking on the Navy
Taking on the Atomic Energy Commission
The Attack from the Undersea Warfare Symposium
Getting Industry Aboard: Westinghouse and General Electric
Getting the Billet
Creating the Means
I Find Myself Working for Rickover
Mandil Enters the Scene
Panoff Is Brought In
Going after “A Few Good Men”
“The Pinks”
The Support Staff
Extending the Effect: Planning and Budgeting
Getting Started with the Work
Creating a Zirconium Industry and a Hafnium Industry
Extending the Effect: The Materials Industry
Deciding to Build the Prototype Plant inside a Submarine Hull
“Suppose Your Son Were to Serve on this Submarine”
“Court Orders Sanity Test for Rockwell”
Killing the Breeder
Bringing in a Shipbuilder
Getting a Ship
The Craft of Building Submarines
Extending the Effect: Shipbuilding
Pierce Goes Nuclear
Recruiting Submarine Drivers
Extending the Effect: Recruitment and Training
The Aircraft Carrier Project
A “Fat Slob” Almost Gets Fired
The Nautilus Keel Laying

Part III: Putting the Atom to Work (1950-1957)
The Basic Technical Parameters
The Benefits of Starting with a Submarine
In Defense of a Parochial Viewpoint
Setting the Radiation Standards
The Production of Sponge Zirconium
Problems with Structural Materials
Training Lessons
Starting to “Own” the Design
Selecting Hafnium as the Control Material
Starting Up Mark I
Extending the Effect: Construction
The Important Role of the NRX
“Don’t Overlook the Obvious”
Mark I’s Transatlantic Trip
Ironing out the Procedures
Extending the Effect: Operating Procedures and Manuals.
Going after the Navy
A Few Phone Calls
Congress Forces a Deal
The Large Ship Reactor Project and Civilian Atomic Power
The AEC as Adversary
Learning to Think Civilian
Extending the Effect: The Electric Utility Industry
Rickover’s Power Base in Congress
Technical Intuition
“Everything Has to be Built Special”
Extending the Effect: Large Equipment Manufacturers
Reactor Safety
Checking the Radiation Levels
Getting Safety Approval
Dealing with the Public
The Safeguards Hearings
The Faulty Piping Incident
Extending the Effect: Radiation and Safety Standards
“Under Way on Nuclear Power”
The Nautilus Reaches “Initial Crit”
At Sea at Last
Rickover and the Theater
Atomic Power Ashore
“Open Skies” and “Atoms for Peace”
Extending the Effect: Technical Information
Shippingport Goes On Line

Part IV: Upgrading the Quality of U.S. Industry (1955-1960)
Naval Reactors’ Long-Range Objectives
“We’re in the Education Business”
The Seawolf Takes Center Stage–Briefly
The Elusive Advantages of Thermal Efficiency
Getting Safety Approval
Rickover and the Transatlantic Telephone
“He’s Married, Y’know”
The Office Picnic and the Parade of the Dinosaurs
Gearing Up to Build and Service the Nuclear Fleet
Extending the Effect: Radiological Engineering
Gathering Strength
The Submarine Atmosphere Problem
The Submarine Fleet Reactor Program
The Role of “NR Reps”
Rickover Decides to “Deal Officially”
Quaker Meetings on Sycamore Island
The Rickover Conference
Manning the Ships
The Rickover Interview System
The PCO Interview
“My Hero”
Into the Arctic
“Nautilus 90 North”
“No Room at the Inn”
Surface at the Pole
The Ballistic Missile Submarine Project
The Polaris Difference
Tracking the Subs
Life on Patrol
A Lesson on the Military Mind
“Here They Come Again”

Part V: Proclaiming the Need for Excellence (1959-1964)
The Global Perspective
“Open Skies” Revisited
Rickover and the Lenin
The Triton: Around the World Submerged
Giving the Technology to France
The Leaky Congressional Hearings
Educating for Quality
Educators versus Educationists
Rickover and the Doctors
A Submarine Crew Quiz
Rickover’s School System
Extending the Effect: Education
Getting into the Inner Circle
The Price of Success
The Admiral and the Union Official
The Smaller/​Lighter/​Cheaper Lobby
Dinner with Edward Teller
The Word Engineer Award
Operation in Ports
Getting Safeguards Clearance
The Challenge by Teller
“We Fought a War over That!”
The Loss of the Thresher
The Thresher’s Wake
“Stay Out of it! That’s None of Your Business”
Rickover As Team Player
One More Try for Permanence
Extending the Effect: The Nonnuclear Navy

Part VI: Extending the Rickover Effect (1964-1986)

Leaving Naval Reactors
Setting Up MPR Associates, Inc.
“How Do You Run a Business?”
Rickover As Historian
The Three Mile Island Incident
President Carter Asks Rickover’s Help
Rickover Alumni Get into the Act
Rickover Returns to Three Mile Island
An Opportunity Missed
The Rickover Hall of Engineering
Rickover Gets Fired
Rickover “in Retirement”
Launching the USS Hyman G. Rickover
“He Accepted Gifts from a Contractor”
The Nautilus Comes Home to Stay
Rickover at Home
“They Tell Me I’m Dying”
Humphrey’s Retirement Party
Assessing the Rickover Effect


Rickover Departs
The Rickoids

The Chinese language edition

More excerpts from Reviews

Luckily, it is only towards the very end of this book that its author quotes with approval Admiral Rickover’s characterization of your reviewer as one of the “two biggest goddamn fools who ever ran the Navy.” The substance of the book therefore was read with complete objectivity. It is in fact a worthwhile and interesting account of Rickover’s direction of the naval nuclear power program…Rockwell’s account has the ring of credibility… - Orbis (John Lehman)

We think the book’s management lessons are of broad interest; as Rickover said in 1954: “The development of naval nuclear propulsion plants is a good example of how one goes about getting a job done.” - Government Executive (Tim Clark, Editor)

Rockwell’s detailed and insightful account illustrates Rickover’s remarkable personality and achievements and—perhaps for the first time—also demonstrates his influence on the development of the commercial nuclear power industry…The intimate view of his career that this book provides is an important addition to the study of the history of nuclear engineering. - History of Electrical Engineering Newsletter

An excellent manuscript by any standards. You have captured the essence of Rickover the man, the intellect, the manager, the indefatigable warrior—everything—with fairness, humor, sensitivity, and uncommon stylistic aplomb. Your prose disproves the prevalent belief that no engineer can write. The sentences flow gracefully, with a feel for the rhythm of English that many who make a profession of writing would envy. - Connie Buchanan, Editor, Hunt for Red October

The Rickover Effect is the most readable and valuable contribution that accurately portrays Admiral’s deep sense of purpose, determination, and hard word in accomplishing his goal. Only the author, who has personal knowledge of the early days of nuclear reactor development, could have written this book. - Commander Eleonore Rickover, NC, USN (ret.), widow of the Admiral

Very interesting...could only have been written by someone as close to Rickover as you were. It is well written. It brought back many memories. - Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, Nobel Laureate, Co-Discoverer of Plutonium and Chairman, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1961-1971

This insider’s candid account of Rickover—who was the father of the nuclear Navy and had a key role in development of the first civilian nuclear power station at Shippingport, Pa.—and his methods is based on firsthand anecdotes and rare, previously unreleased documents. - Nuclear News (Jon Payne)

With this detailed account of the technological challenges and achievements…the book helps restore the balance between engineering and science. - IEEE Spectrum (Loren J. Butler)

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