With two men with the same name and a wrong number, a Nobel prize can easily fall into the wrong hands, as was the case when the physics prize was accidentally awarded to an economist.
In an interview with the Nobel Foundation broadcast on Tuesday, just hours ahead of the announcement of the 2015 Nobel Physics Prize laureate, the 1989 physics prize laureate Norman Ramsey recalled how the prize committee had contacted another Norman Ramsey first by mistake.
“They had guessed maybe I might be in Washington DC. There was a Norman Ramsey there. And the chairman of the committee called him,” he recounted in the interview conducted in 2005.
Around 6 am, the son of that Norman Ramsey picked up the phone and was hesitant to wake his father.
“And they said we want to tell him he’s received the Nobel prize in physics. This young man said: that’s very interesting since my father’s an economist,” he said.
The real Nobel laureate Norman Ramsey died in 2011 at 96. He received the prize for his work on atomic clocks.
His namesake did not leave a big enough mark on the field of economics to be honoured with a Nobel prize in that field.