rus / eng

Science & Technology

George Gamow
 
George Gamow was born in Odessa (then – Russian Empire, now – Ukraine) into a family of teachers.
 
Both on his mother's and his father's side, Gamow came from family lines with a long heritage in Ukraine. 
Most of the Lebedintsevs were priests, occupying high positions in the church hierarchy. Still, amongst them there was the famous mathematician K.F. Lebedintsev, liberal activist V.V. Lebedintsev, executed for the attempted assassination of the Justice minister Ivan Scheglovytsin.
 
Father supported Gamow's interest in sciences, physics, astronomy and biology, so after the school George enrolled into the school of mathematics of the Odessa institute, where among his teachers were the physic Nikolai Kasterin and the mathematician Veniamin Kagan. In 1922 Gamow transferred to the Petrograd university, which was the center of the emerging Soviet science.
 
Gamov graduated in 1926 and continued scientific work. The same year he was sent to Goettingen (Germany), and, wanting to go for an unsolved scientific problem, decided on the theory of the atom nucleus, soon becoming the first to explain behavior of radioactive elements by the quantum theory.
 
In September 1928 his term of stay in Goettingen expired; on his way home, he visited Copenhagen, where he met Niels Bohr, who offered him to stay at his institute and even facilitated the Karlberg Fund scholarship for Gamow. After Copenhagen, Gamow returned to Leningrad and immediately joined the newly created Radium institute. Soon the famous academician Abraham Ioffe invited him to his team, which included such prominent scientists as as Nikolai Semenov, Igor Kurchatov, Jacob Frenkel, Vladimir Fock etc.
 
In 1931 Gamow met the MGU alumnus Lyubov Vokhomintseva, and soon they got married. At the same time the scientist felt changes in the position of the scientists in the USSR: in October of the same year he was invited to the International Physics Congress in Rome, but was denied exit from the USSR.
 
After that incident, Gamow set his mind on escaping the country by any means necessary, and in summer 1932, during a holiday in the Crimea, he and his wife attempted to get to the Turkish coast by a rowboat, but were prevented from succeeding by a storm.
 
Another chance to escape presented itself in the fall of 1933, when Gamow, recommended by Ioffe, was appointed the Soviet representative on a congress in Brussels. Thanks to his connections with Bukharin, he managed to get an audience with Molotov and obtain a visa for his wife as well. Of course, when his term ran out, he decided to stay... Gamow was fired from the Radium institute and expelled from the Academy of Sciences.
 
After moving from Brussels to Washington, USA, in 1934, he obtained the position of a professor at the George Washington University. In the 40s, Gamow formulated the first concrete theory of evolution of stars using terms of the thermonuclear synthesis. In 1941 he had a chance to become a member of the Manhattan project, but in the end was declined for state security reasons. He still worked on less important problems and was a consultant for the US Navy. It was during this time, that he got close to Albert Einstein, who had also been "disallowed" from the Manhattan project.
 
In 1946 Gamow actively works in the field of cosmology, and formulates the theory of the "hot Universe" - a development and clarification of the theory of the Big Bang.
 
In 1954, a year after the discovery of the DNA structure, Gamow accidentally made a huge contribution to creation of a new discipline - molecular biology, becoming the first to consider a genetic code, based on simple arithmetics! His thoughts on a code inside the DNA molecule were confirmed in 1961-67 by experiments of Francis Kreek. 
 
During the last years of his life, spent in Colorado, Gamow suffered multiple heart diseases and went through several surgeries. He died in Boulder, Colorado, on August 19, 1968, and was interred at the Green Mountain Cemetery.
 
Sources: 
Segrè, Gino (2000-03-30). "The Big Bang and the genetic code". Nature 404 (6777): 437
My World Line G. Gamow, Viking Press, 1970

 


   Bookmark and Share

 

<< back <<