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A Look At the Life of Nobel Laureate Norman F. Ramsey

The Brookline resident died in Wayland Friday at the age of 96.

When Norman F. Ramsey passed away on Friday, Nov. 4 in Wayland, the 96-year-old physicist was best known for his Nobel Prize-winning work in atomic physics.

“My early interest in science was stimulated by reading an article on the quantum theory of the atom. But, at that time I did not realize that physics could be a profession,” Ramsey wrote in his Nobel Prize autobiography.

In 1989, he earned the Nobel Prize for work which led to a new way to read the electromagnetic frequencies of atoms, and from that a new standard by which to keep time: the atomic clock. And in 1981, FermiLab named its auditorium for Ramsey, who had helped found the accelerator project there.

Ramsey searched for over four decades for what is called the “Neutron electric dipole moment.” He told FermiNews, in a 2003 interview, “It’s still a very open and fundamental question ... I’m 87 years old, but I’m not giving up.”

In addition to an active mind, he also stayed physically active. His wife, Ellie Welch Ramsey, told Patch the Longwood-area resident “was a frequent walker. His favorite route encompassed the Beech Tree Mall.” The couple lived near the Beech Tree Inn.

She added that he also had hiked the Himalayas. The New York Times writes that Ramsey had learned to ski in the 1930s, and later took up long-board surfing and ice sailing, and that the couple had traveled together from the Himalayas to Antarctica.

The family plans to have a private funeral service. They will also hold a memorial service at Harvard University at a date and time to be announced.

Michael & Nomi Burstein November 08, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Thank you for covering this. Ramsay was a very important person in the history of modern Physics.
Karla Vallance November 08, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Agreed, Michael & Nomi; but I have to admit I had no idea Ramsey lived in our midst.
Brooklyn Lowery November 08, 2011 at 01:34 PM
It was fascinating to spend time reading about Ramsey (though I admittedly understand very little of his work). The photos, I think, were my favorite part. Just to think about what he saw and experienced during his life is incredible.
Michael & Nomi Burstein November 08, 2011 at 01:51 PM
There's quite a few people living in Brookline who are important and well-known in their fields but who would be unrecognizable if you saw them on the street. As it is, my background is in Physics so I've been aware of Ramsay and his work for a long time. It's sad to see him gone. -- Michael

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