The late Norman Ramsey: New York Times obituary
Article outlines seven-decade career that started under Rabi at Columbia.
November 7, 2011Published: November 7, 2011
By Steve Corneliussen
From an obituary in the 7 November New York Times:
Norman F. Ramsey, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who developed a precise method to probe the structure of atoms and molecules and used it to devise a remarkably exact way to keep time, died on Friday in Wayland, Mass. He was 96. ... In 1949, Dr. Ramsey invented an experimental technique to measure the frequencies of electromagnetic radiation most readily absorbed by atoms and molecules. The technique allowed scientists to investigate their structure with greater accuracy and enabled the development of a new kind of timekeeping device known as the atomic clock. Dr. Ramsey received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1989 for both achievements.
The obituary quotes Leon Lederman, the physics Nobel laureate who served as director of Fermilab in Illinois: “If you made a list of the most outstanding physicists of the 20th century, he’d be among the leaders.” It also reports on his graduate study under Isidor Isaac Rabi of Columbia University in the late 1930s, his wartime work with radar and atomic weapons, his later work’s importance to MRI and atomic clock technology, his contributions to the founding of both Fermilab and Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, and his personal and family life. The article ends by reporting that William Phillips, a University of Maryland physicist, said Ramsey’s forceful presence and his contributions “set the tone for a generation of physicists.”
Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. His reports to AIP are collected each Friday for "Science and the media." He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA's history program, and is a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.