Gamow was born in Odessa, Russia, now Ukraine. He was educated at the Novorossia University in Odessa (1922-23) and at the University of Leningrad (1923-1929). On graduation he studied quantum theory in Göttingen, where his research into the atomic nucleus provided the basis for his doctorate. He then worked at the Theoretical Physics Institute of the University of Copenhagen, from 1928 to 1931 with a break to work with Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, he continued to study the atomic nucleus (proposing the "liquid drop" model) but also worked on stellar physics with Robert Atkinson and Fritz Houtermans.
Gamow then worked at a number of establishments before fleeing the increased oppression in Russia and settling at George Washington University in 1934, where he published with Edward Teller, Mario Schoenberg and Ralph Alpher
The cosmogenesis paper with Alpher was published as the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow theory, Gamow had added the name of Hans Bethe to make a pun on the first three letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha beta gamma.
Gamow was a strong advocate of the Big Bang theory. He remained in Washington until 1954, then working at University of California, Berkeley (1954), University of Colorado (1956-1968). In 1956 he was awarded the Kalinga prize by UNESCO for his work in popularizing science with his Mr. Tompkins series of books (1939-1967), One Two Three ... Infinity, and other works.