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Gamow, George

synthesis universe bases proteins

[gam ov] (1904–68) Russian–US physicist: explained helium abundance in universe; suggested DNA code of protein synthesis.

Born in Odessa and a student in Petrograd (now St Petersburg), Gamow worked in Copenhagen with and in Cambridge with , felt oppressed on his return to Russia and worked in the USA from 1934. He made important advances in both cosmology and molecular biology. In 1948, together with , he suggested a means by which the abundances of chemical elements observed in the universe (helium in particular) might be explained (see Alpher). Gamow also showed, in 1956, that the heavier elements could only have been formed in the hot interiors of stars. He had showed in the 1930s that our Sun is not cooling down but is slowly heating up and in the 1940s he was a major expounder of the ‘Big Bang’ theory of the origin of the universe. A large and enthusiastic person, and a keen joker, it was his idea to include (facetiously but legitimately) in their classic paper on what ironically called the ‘Big Bang’, published on 1 April 1948. The name stuck.

In molecular biology Gamow made a major contribution to the problem of how the order of the four different kinds of nucleic acid bases in DNA chains could govern the synthesis of proteins from amino acids. He realized (after some false starts) that short sequences of the bases could form a ‘code’ capable of carrying information for the synthesis of proteins; and that, since there are 20 amino acids making up proteins, the code must consist of blocks of three nucleic acid bases in order to have a sufficient vocabulary of instructions. By 1960 this central idea was shown to be correct: as were his ideas on element formation at the Big Bang, Gamow’s contribution, while only partly correct, was seminal, and was fully developed by other workers.

Gant, Richard E. (1940–) [next] [back] Game Event Synchronization

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