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George Washington Univ: GAMOW, George plaque in Washington, D.C.

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George Gamow Professor of Physics at the GWU from 1934 to 1956
Gamow (1904-1968) is renowned for developing the "Big Bang Theory" of the universe (1948), explaining nuclear alpha decay by quantum tunneling (1928); describing, with Edward Teller, spin-induced nuclear beta decay (1936); pioneering the liquid-drop model in nuclear physics (1928); introducing the "Gamow" factor in stellar reaction rates & element formation (1938); modeling red giants, supernovae, & neutron stars (1939); first suggesting how the genetic code might be transcribed (1954); and popularizing science through a long series of books, including the adventures of "Mr. Tompkins" (1939-1967).
This plaque is placed in honor of their colleague George Gamow
by the Physics Dept of the GWU April 2000

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0001000/01387_0010005579 (added ca. 2006)


Announcement of the Atomic Age
On this campus, Jan 26, 1939, Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr reported the splitting of the uranium nucleus with a release of two hundred million electron volts of energy, thus heralding the beginning of the atomic age. This announcement took place in the Hall of Government, Room 209, at the Fifth Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics organized by GWU Professors George Gamow & Edward Teller & jointly sponsored by the Carnegie Institute & the GWU.
Although the subject of the Fifth Conference was low-temperature physics & superconductivity, the importance of such a revolutionary event could not be ignored. Bohr said that his colleagues Otto Robert Frisch & Lise Meitner in Copenhagen experimentally verified a suggestion of Otto Hahn & Fritz Strassmann. Nuclear fission by the bombardment of uranium with neutrons had been observed. From his owrk on the structure & excitation of nuclei, Bohr realized that a neutron-induced chain reaction of uranium-235 was possible. Physicist Leo Szilard at Columbia University had come to the same conclusion.
Being concerned about developments in Germany, Szilard pressed Bohr & his other physics colleagues into secrecy & helped convince Albert Einstein to write Pres Roosevelt of the danger implied & the necessity for action. Bohr & Teller joined in the war effort at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1943. The world was not made aware of the atomic age until 1945, when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima & then on Nagasaki. With the power of such mass destruction also came the promise of long-lasting energy for human activity. In 1950 Bohr wrote, "...widening of the borders of our knowledge imposes an increased responsibility on individuals & nations."

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0001000/01387_0010005589 (added ca. 2006)



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0001000/01387_0010005599 (added ca. 2006)

More Info

Location: 725 21st St NW (Corcoran Hall) Washington, D.C. George Washington Univ

Nearest Metro:
Foggy Bottom - GWU (George Washington University) (Orange - Blue - Silver) (click station name for all sculptures nearby) (dcMem ID #1387 )

Links & other sources
GWU website
Wikipedia article on Gamow
GWU plaques

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