George Gamow

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George Gamow (Russian pronunciation: [ˈɡaməf]; March 4 [O.S. February 20] 1904 – August 19, 1968), born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov (Георгий Антонович Гамов), was a Russian-born theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He discovered alpha decay via quantum tunneling and worked on radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, big bang nucleosynthesis, cosmic microwave background, nucleocosmogenesis and genetics.


Life and early career

Gamow was born in the city of Odessa, Russian Empire (now in Ukraine) to mixed Russian-Ukrainian parents. He was educated at the Novorossiya University in Odessa (1922–23) and at the University of Leningrad (1923–1929). Gamow studied under Alexander Friedmann for some time in Leningrad, though Friedmann died in 1925. At the University Gamow made friends with three other students of theoretical physics, Lev Landau, Dmitri Ivanenko, and Matvey Bronshtein (who was arrested in 1937 and executed in 1938 by the Soviet regime). The four formed a group known as the Three Musketeers which met to discuss and analyze the ground-breaking papers on quantum mechanics published during those years.

On graduation, he worked on quantum theory in Göttingen, 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.

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