George Gamow - Late Career and Life

Late Career and Life

Gamow worked at George Washington University from 1934 until 1954, when he became a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1956, he moved to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1956, Gamow became one of the founding members of the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC), which later reformed teaching of high school physics in the post-Sputnik years. Also in 1956, he divorced his first wife. Gamow later married Barbara Perkins (an editor for one of his publishers) in 1958.

In 1959, Gamow, Hans Bethe, and Victor Weisskopf publicly supported the re-entry of Frank Oppenheimer into teaching college physics at the University of Colorado, as the Red Scare began to fade (Robert and Frank Oppenheimer were brothers). While teaching there, Oppenheimer became increasingly interested in teaching science through simple hands-on experiments, eventually moving on to found the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

On Gamow's views on God, he was an atheist.

Gamow continued his teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and focused increasingly on writing textbooks and books on science for the general public. After several months of ill health, surgeries on his circulatory system, diabetes and liver problems, Gamow succumbed to liver failure, which he called the "weak link" that could not withstand the other stresses. On August 19, 1968, Gamow died unexpectedly at age 64 in Boulder, Colorado, and was buried there in Green Mountain Cemetery. The physics department tower at the University of Colorado at Boulder is named after him. In a letter written to Ralph Alpher on August 18, he wrote "The pain in the abdomen is unbearable and does not stop." Prior to this, there had been a long exchange of letters with his former student in which he was seeking a fresh understanding of some concepts used in his earlier work, with such scientists and Paul Dirac. He relied on Alpher for his deeper understanding of mathematics.

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