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Gamow, George

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1904-1968) Russian physicist born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov, involved in the development of quantum theory at Göttingen and later a colleague of Niels Bohr (1885-1962) and Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937). He defected in 1934 to the US, working from that year at George Washington University, where he eventually held the chair of theoretical physics; he became a US citizen in 1940, but was barred from the Manhattan Project, presumably as a security risk. After important work on stellar evolution, he turned to investigate the Big Bang, becoming the most ardent proselytizer for that (now accepted) theory of the Universe's origins, in contradiction to the then widely persuasive Steady State Universe theory advocated by, notably, Fred Hoyle (see Continuous Creation). Beyond his technical work, he is known for his ten or more scientific popularizations, beginning with The Birth and Death of the Sun (1940) and including One Two Three ... Infinity (1947; rev 1960).

Gamow's three sets of stories featuring Mr Tompkins are particularly attractive: Mr Tompkins in Wonderland; Or, Stories of C, G & H (stories 1938-1939 Discovery; 1939 chap) and Mr Tompkins Explores the Atom (1944 chap), both being assembled as Mr Tompkins in Paperback (omni 1965), and Mr Tompkins Learns the Facts of Life (1953 chap UK; much exp vt Mr Tompkins Inside Himself: Adventures in the New Biology 1967 US with Martynas Yčas [1917-    ]). Couched in narrative form, these books gracefully and intelligently explore the wonders of science, with Tompkins magically visiting embodied demonstrations of the scientific world, and even exploring his own body. Though technically juvenile, the books have a wide appeal. Gamow also wrote at least one sf speculation for adults, "The Heart on the Other Side" (7 October 1955 Journal of Jocular Physics), composed in celebration of Bohr's 70th birthday and later published in The Expert Dreamers (anth 1962; cut 1966) edited by Frederik Pohl. [JC]

see also: Alternate History; Cosmology; Dimensions; Faster Than Light; Great and Small.

George Antony Gamow

born Odessa, Russia: 4 March 1904

died Boulder, Colorado: 19 August 1968



Mr Tompkins

nonfiction (highly selected)


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