|Ramsey, Norman F. (1915-)|
was born August 27, 1915 in Washington, D.C. My mother, daughter of German
immigrants, had been a mathematics instructor at the University of Kansas.
My father, descended from Scottish refugees and a West Point graduate,
was an officer in the Army Ordnance Corps. His frequently changing assignments
took us from Washington, DC to Topeka, Kansas, to Paris, France, to Picatinny
Arsenal near Dover, New Jersey, and to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. With
two of the moves I skipped a grade and, encouraged by my supportive parents
and teachers, I graduated from high school with a high academic record
at the age of 15.
As soon as the war
ended I eagerly returned to Columbia University as a professor and research
scientist. Rabi and I immediately set out to revive the molecular beam
laboratory which had been abandoned during the war. My first graduate
student, William Nierenberg, and I measured a number of nuclear magnetic
dipole and electric quadrupole moments and Rabi and I started two other
students, Nafe and Nelson, on a fundamental experiment to measure accurately
the atomic hydrogen hyperfine separation. During this period Rabi and
I also initiated the actions that led to the establishment of the Brookhaven
National Laboratory on Long Island, New York, where in 1946 I became the
first head of the Physics Department.
While these experiments were being carried out with some of my graduate students, I worked with other students and associates to apply similar precision methods to beams of polarized neutrons. At the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, we measured accurately the magnetic moment of the neutron, set a low limit to the electric dipole moment of the neutron as a test of time reversal symmetry and discovered and measured the parity non-conserving rotations of the spins of neutrons passing through various materials.
Concurrently with my molecular and neutron beam research, I was also teaching and involved with other scientific activities. I was director of the Harvard Cyclotron during its construction and early operation and participated in proton-proton scattering experiments with that cyclotron. I was later chairman of the joint Harvard-MIT committee managing the construction of the 6 GeV Cambridge Electron Accelerator and used that device for various particle physics experiments including electron-proton scattering. For a year and a half I was on leave from Harvard as the first Assistant Secretary General for Science (Science Advisor) in NATO where I initiated the NATO programs for Advanced Study Institutes, Fellowships and Research Grants. For sixteen exciting years I was on leave half time from Harvard as President of Universities Research Association which exercised its management responsibilities for the construction and operation of the Fermilab accelerator through two outstanding laboratory directors, Robert R. Wilson and Leon Lederman.
Although I am primarily an experimental physicist, theoretical physics is my hobby and I have published several theoretical papers including early discussions of parity and time reversal symmetry, the first successful theory of the NMR chemical shifts, theories of nuclear interactions in molecules and the theory of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics at negative absolute temperatures.
I officially retired from Harvard in 1986, but I have remained active in physics. For one year I was a research fellow at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado and I now periodically revisit JILA as an Adjunct Research Fellow. Subsequent to our year in Colorado, I have been visiting professors at The University of Chicago, Williams College and the University of Michigan. I continue writing and theoretical calculations in my Harvard office and with my collaborators we are continuing our neutron experiments at Grenoble.
After Elinor died in 1983, I married Ellie Welch of Brookline, Massachusetts and we now have a combined family of seven children and six grandchildren. We enjoy downhill and cross country skiing, hiking, bicycling and trekking as well as musical and cultural events.
I have greatly enjoyed
my years as a teacher and research physicist and continue to do so. The
research collaborations and close friendships with my eighty-four graduate
students have given me especially great pleasure. I hope they have learned
as much from me as I have from them.