George Gamow

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General Facts

George Gamow was born on March 4, 1904, in Odessa, Russian Empire. His parents were mixed Russian-Ukrainian and were both teachers. Gamow did most of his studying at the University of Leningrad. Gamow worked at the Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Copenhagen after leaving Leningrad and at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. He also worked at the Radium Institute in Leningrad before eventually moving to the United States. He came to the United States with his wife and became a professor at George Washington University. Gamow taught at George Washington for 20 years, during which he published many important works. He then moved on to teach at the University of California, Berkley and the University of Colorado at Boulder. On August 19, 1968, Gamow died unexpectedly in Boulder, Colorado.

Major Discoveries

In 1928, Gamow solved the theory of alpha decay of a nucleus via tunneling. This theory of alpha decay explains that when there is radioactive decay, an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle which decays the previous atom into a new one with an atomic mass 2 less and a mass number 4 less. He provided an early "liquid drop" model of the atom. In 1948, he published a work that contained equations for the radius and mass of a primordial galaxy. In 1948, he also helped publish a work that helped support the Big Bang Theory. He also published important papers on star formation and DNA

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Gamow faced challenges in leaving the Soviet Union. He was denied permission to attend several scientific conferences in other countries and tried to leave the country for years before they finally let him leave the USSR. Once he left he spent time in England, but eventually ended up moving to the United States.

Did You Know...?

-He was an Atheist

-The physics department tower at the University of Colorado Boulder is named after him

-Died of liver failure


"It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man"