The Gamow Bag®

Rustem Igor Gamow – scientist, classicist, professor, and adventurer – has invented a number of items that make it easier and safer to explore the outdoors.

Gamow is the son of the famed physicist George Gamow, a co-author of the Big Bang Theory and the first to propose the genetic code. Gamow's mother, Rho, was a ballet dancer; and it was in his mother's footsteps that Gamow first followed, joining the National Ballet Company after finishing high school at age 17. Gamow's subsequent jobs included breaking horses, delivering packages by motorcycle, and teaching karate.

In time, however, Gamow entered into his father's field. He earned a PhD in Microbiology and Microphysics from the University of Colorado, where his father was teaching Physics. Gamow then joined the faculty in 1968 and began teaching Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, and related subjects.

Gamow hardly confines himself to the classroom and lab; he is an irrepressible outdoorsman. But he has found ways to put his scientific know-how to work in the context of recreation. Not only does Gamow teach an annual practicum in high-altitude physiology in the Himalyas; he has produced and patented a series of inventions for the benefit of his fellow adventurers.

In fact, Sir Edmund Hillary, leader of the first expedition to climb Mount Everest, wrote to Gamow personally to sing the praises of Gamow's first major invention, the Gamow Bag® (first patented in 1990). This began as a pressurized chamber that Gamow built in the mid-1980s in order to study the effect of high altitude on a person's stamina and performance. He eventually adapted the chamber into a soft, portable device that looks like an oversized sleeping bag. The Gamow Bag® is airtight when zipped shut, with a foot-pedal-driven air pump that can increase the air pressure inside the bag to the desired level. This means that a person suffering from the potentially deadly low pressure at high altitudes can enter the bag and recover in its simulated sea-level air pressure.

The Gamow Bag® has already saved dozens of lives. The first beneficiary was a French alpinist that Gamow encountered by chance during the bag's first tests in Nepal in 1988. The Gamow Bag® has also been used to treat skiers in the Colorado Rockies: "They were sick one day and able to ski the next." The Gamow Bag® could also readily be used on space shuttle flights.

Among Gamow's other inventions is the SUBA ("Shallow Underwater Breathing Apparatus") gear (prototype patented in 1993). This is essentially an air-pressurized snorkel system: a combination of face mask, tubing, and foot pump that allows a snorkeler to swim up to 10 feet below the water's surface without coming up for air at all.

One Gamow research project, in the realm of bionics (the science of living machines), is an orthopedic knee brace fitted with a spring that stores energy from the hamstring muscles and redirects it to the quadriceps. This should prove a great help to persons suffering from arthritis or other knee problems, especially in climbing up and down.

Igor Gamow has earned over nine patents for his devices. More importantly, he has used his personal experience to make it easier and safer for others to share his love of outdoor adventure.