Photo of Norman F. Ramsey

Norman F. Ramsey

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his seminal investigations in broad areas of atomic, molecular, and nuclear physics, and for his dedicated service to the Nation and to the scientific community.

Physicist Norman F. Ramsey spent his career researching atoms and what makes them “tick.”

Ramsey’s work in the field of physics led to the development of the atomic clock, the most accurate timekeeping device in the world. Today, the atomic clock is used to synchronize wired power grids, Global Positioning Systems and even clocks on smartphones.

In 1930s and 40s, Ramsey began experimenting with existing techniques of studying atoms in an effort to improve their accuracy. By 1949, he discovered a new way exposing atoms and molecules to magnetic fields, a technique which is now called the Ramsey Method.

Ramsey’s interest in science extended beyond the laboratory. The physicist was the first science advisor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1982, while working for NATO, he headed up a National Research Council committee which disproved previous theories that there was more than one gunman in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

By Rachel Warren