George Gamow (1904 – 1968)

Russian-born  American physicist George Gamow (1904 – 1968) born in Odessa, the son of a teacher. He made important advances in both Cosmology and molecular biology. He was educated at Leningrad University, where later he was professor of physics (1931-34). He went on to carry out research at Gottingen, Copenhagen and Cambridge before he moved to the USA as professor of physics at George Washington University (1934-55) and at Colorado (1956-68). In 1948, with Ralph Alpher and Hans Bethe, he suggested an explanation for the observed abundance of chemical elements in the universe based on thermonuclear processes in the early stages of a hot evolving universe. He showed that the heavier elements could only have been formed in the hot interiors of stars, and that our Sun is not cooling down, and he was a major expounder of the "big bang’ theory of the origin of the universe. In molecular biology he made a major contribution to the problem: how does the order of the four different kinds of nucleic acid bases in DNA chains govern the synthesis of proteins from amino acids? He realized that short sequences of the bases could form a 'code' capable of carrying information directing the synthesis  of proteins, a proposal shown by the mid-1950s to be correct.

© Ian Hughes 2017