(March 4, 1904-August 19, 1968)
Born in Odessa, Ukraine
Last name pronounced 'gam-uff'
Defected from the Soviet Union (1933)
Became a naturalized US citizen (1940)
Early proponent of the Big Bang theory
Developed theory of how hydrogen and helium were synthesized during the Big Bang
Predicted the existence of the cosmic background radiation
Developed theories of how atomic nuclei decay through alpha and beta radiation
In genetics, suggested to Watson and Crick that groups of three DNA bases could code for the amino acids in proteins
Wrote 'The Birth and Death of the Sun' (1940), 'Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland' (1940), 'The Biography of the Earth' (1941), 'Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom' (1945), 'One, Two, Three... Infinity' (1947) and 'Thirty Years That Shook Physics' (1966)
Won UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for popularizing science (1956)
Why he might be annoying
He was fond of practical jokes, card tricks and limericks.
In writing up a theory he developed with Ralph Alpher, he added Hans Bethe as an author of the paper just to create an 'alpha-beta-gamma' pun.
He tried to submit to the journal 'Nature' a paper with his fictional character C.G.H. Tompkins listed as a co-author; 'Nature' rejected it, figuring it was a practical joke. (He eventually published it in another journal, with just himself as the author.)
He died of liver failure from a lifetime of heavy drinking.
Why he might not be annoying
He and his wife first attempted to defect from the USSR by kayaking across the Black Sea to Turkey until poor weather forced them back. (They ultimately defected by the more convential means of asking for asylum following a scientific conference held in Brussels.)
He made significant contributions to multiple scientific fields: nuclear physics, cosmology and genetics.
In addition to writing the text, he also drew the illustrations for his books.
A fellow scientist said, 'Gamow belongs to that rare species of first class scientists who are also first class science communicators.'
Credit: C. Fishel
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