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 George Gamow

Born:   March 4, 1904
Deceased:   August 20, 1968

a world famous Russian-born American scientist


George Antonovich Gamow (George Gamow) is a world famous American physicist of Russian Empire origin.

George Gamow was born in Odessa on March 4, 1904. Young George got secondary education in Odessa’s gymnasium, and after graduation went to St. Petersburg, where he was admitted to the faculty of physics of St. Petersburg University. Future star of world physics graduated from the university in 1926, getting a diploma with honors. In 1928 young physicist used principles of quantum mechanics, being the first scientist in the world to create the theory of alpha disintegration, which is one of four types of radioactivity. Gamow successfully explained behaviour of radioactive elements, so called “tunnel effect”. Eminent Russian physicist, academician Abraham Ioffe noticed theoretical investigations of talented young scientist and invited him to take a position in Leningrad Physical and Technical Institute, where George Gamow “performed physics” together with other outstanding Russian scientists N. Semenov, I. Kurchatov and etc. Gamow made friends with future Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau.

In 1993 academician Ioffe recommended Gamow for an international trip for getting acquainted with Western physical laboratories. George Gamow spent one year in European scientific community and decided not to return to the USSR (a far-reaching decision, since many Russian scientists were killed in 1937). The scientist moved to the United States, where was appointed a professor in the University of George Washington. In 1936 Gamow and his university colleague Edward Teller consolidated the theory of another type of radioactivity, beta disintegration, and introduced a concept of “Gamow-Teller interaction”. In 1941 fruitful cooperation of two physicists ended – Edward Teller left the university and entered a scientific group, creating an atomic bomb. Several years later Teller became known as “father of hydrogen bomb”. George Gamow never participated in these works, which can possibly be due to his Russian origin.


Nevertheless, George Gamow kept working, though changed research subject to astrophysics and cosmology. Being a gifted researcher, Gamow made good use of nuclear physics in his works on evolution of stars. Gamow was the first to calculate models of stars with thermonuclear reactions. The scientist suggested a model of shell of a red giant in 1942 and studied role neutrinos play in nova and supernova outbursts. Between 1946 and 1948 George Gamow worked on a theory of chemical elements formation by means of successive neutron capture. George Gamow was the one to suggest a theory of “Hot Universe”, which predicted existence of background radiation, formed during the Big Bang. His theory was later confirmed by American researchers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978.

In 1954 George Gamow made another scientific breakthrough in this article, where states a problem of genetic code, proving that four different kinds of bases, combined in triplets, result in 64 combinations, enough for storing hereditary information. Gamow hoped younger scientists would live to see this code deciphered. In October 1968 Robert Holley, Har Khorana and Marshall Nirenberg received the Nobel Prize for deciphering genetic code, but George Gamow never found out about this event – he died in August 1968.

George Gamow belongs to the pleiad of genial physicists, who contributed a lot to world science.

Source: MSU

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian science Russian scientists Russian physics George Gamow  

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