George Gamow

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George Gamow, born Georgiy Antonovich Gamow (Георгий Антонович Гамов) (March 4, 1904August 19, 1968) was a Ukrainian born physicist and cosmologist. He worked on subjects including the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, nucleocosmogenesis, and genetic code.

Gamow was born in Odessa, in the Russian Empire, now in Ukraine. He was educated at the Novorossiya University in Odessa (1922–23) and at the University of Leningrad (1923–1929). On graduation he studied quantum theory in Gttingen, where his research into the atomic nucleus provided the basis for his doctorate. He then worked at the Theoretical Physics Institute of the University of Copenhagen, from 1928 to 1931 with a break to work with Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, he continued to study the atomic nucleus (proposing the "liquid drop" model) but also worked on stellar physics with Robert Atkinson and Fritz Houtermans.

Gamow then worked at a number of establishments before fleeing the increased oppression in Russia and moved to the United States in 1934, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1940. He began working at George Washington University in 1934, where he published with Edward Teller, Mario Schoenberg, and Ralph Alpher. The cosmogenesis paper with Alpher was published as the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow theory, Gamow had added the name of Hans Bethe to make a pun on the first three letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha beta gamma. Gamow was a strong advocate of the Big Bang theory.

After the discovery of the structure of DNA, Gamow realized that the sequence of nucleotides formed a code. He corresponded with researchers in the field about this concept.

He remained in Washington until 1954, then working at University of California, Berkeley (1954), University of Colorado at Boulder (1956–1968). In 1956 he was awarded the Kalinga prize by UNESCO for his work in popularizing science with his Mr. Tompkins... series of books (1939–1967), One Two Three ... Infinity, and other works.

Trivia

Gamow was highly regarded in the Soviet Union, and was awarded the rank of General in the Army, a fact which raised eyebrows in the paperwork for his U.S. security clearances during the Cold War.

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