Born in Odessa, now part of the Ukraine, Georgiy Antonovich Gamov, studied hard and became fascinated with science, mathematics, and astronomy. A physicist and cosmologist, Gamov based his doctorate on the quantum theory before later solving the theory regarding a nucleus's alpha decay through tunneling. Gamow also believed in the Big Bang theory and later tried to prove it by studying levels of hydrogen and helium in the universe and the strength of cosmic microwave radiation.
After working in Russian for many years, Gamov and his wife lived with increasing hardships. They decided to defect to the United States in search of freedom. Defection would be dangerous at any cost, but Gamow's plan was to kayak over the Black Sea and into Turkey. When that failed due to bad weather, he decided to kayak from Murmansk to Norway. That plan too was unsuccessful. Still determined, Gamow looked for another way out. His opportunity came when both he and his wife, also a physicist, were granted permission to attend a conference in Brussels. They defected and later became naturalized American citizens.
Gamow wrote and illustrated his work. He won the Kalinga Prize given by UNESCO for making science popular to children through his Mr. Tompkins... series, One, Two, Three...Infinity, and other books. The Great Physicists From Galileo to Einstein and Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of the Quantum Theory are still read today.
Though it is said that the USSR had sentenced Gamow to death for his defection, it was Gamow's liver that caused his ultimate demise in 1968.
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