Sunday, May 6, 2012
George Gamow and Max Delbrück were scientific wall-jumpers—intellectual border-crossers who in many ways defined the fields of cosmology and genomics.
George, known as Geo, was Russian, a physicist by training, who would go on to be known as the father of Big Bang cosmology. Max, also a trained physicist, was a German whose curiosity would take him many places before he settled in with bacteriophages and the study of genetic replication. Geo was a renowned jokester. Max was considered Zen. Wonder framed their pursuits, and friendship bound them. In choosing to pair the two in Ordinary Geniuses, a dual biography, Gino Segre, emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at Penn, has crafted a charming and wide-ranging text that has as much to teach about 20th-century science as it does about personal sacrifice and risks.