Who was Sir Gilbert Walker? Dr Rob Allan Hadley Centre for Climate Change Met Office Fitzroy Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 3PB
Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker 1868-1958
Family Background Gilbert Thomas Walker, 4th child ofThomas Walker & Charlotte Haslehurst,was born at Rochdale, Lancashire on 14 June 1868 Gilbert Walker’s ancestors were farmers, agricultural labourers & millers in the same part of Derbyshire since the 1600s • Gilbert’s father, Thomas, was • a mechanical engineer • Borough Surveyor for Rochdale • Chief Borough Engineer & Surveyor, Croydon Board of Health and pioneered using concrete in dam construction
School Days 1876-1881: Whitgift School, South Croydon 1881-1886: St Paul’s School, West Kensington • St Paul’s School, West Kensington, July 1886 • My dear High Master, • As Walker is now leaving school for the University, this is the last time that it will be my duty to report to you on his progress and on the quality of his work. Throughout the time that he has spent with me his work has been so uniformly good, and he has been so persistent and untiring in his devotion to it, that I can scarcely speak too highly of him. • It is a matter for special regret that his illness during the examination should have taken from him his last and best opportunity at school of displaying fully his mathematical knowledge and power. • I have never parted from any of my boys with more respect and confidence than I now do for him and I hope that his health will allow his career at the University to be a harmonious continuation of his career at St Paul’s. • I am very faithfully yours, • C. Pendlebury • Charles Pendlebury, writer of school arithmetic texts, was senior mathematics master at St Paul’s School
Dr Hugh Hunt, Senior Lecturer, Dept of Engineering, Trinity College, throwing boomerangs on The Backs at Trinity College Trinity College, Cambridge Gilbert entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1884 1885-1893: prizes in mathematics and dynamics (paper on gyroscopes) 1891: elected aFellow of Trinity 1891-1893: winters in Switzerland (due to health problems)increased his passions for ice skating & climbing 1895-1901: Mathematics lectureship 1899/1900: awarded the Adams Prize (paper on electromagnetic fields) During his time at Cambridge, Gilbert developed an interest inprojectiles, ball games, spinning tops, flight & throwing sticks– especiallyboomerangs,which he threw onThe Backs at Trinity College. He earned the nickname Boomerang Walker.
Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker, 3rd British Director (Director General of Observatories) 1904-1924 A New Direction Gilbert Walker had no training in meteorology or climatology when he was appointed Director General of Observatories in India, based in Simla, on 1 January 1904. His predecessor, John Eliot, had found a successor with strong statistical/mathematical qualifications who could assess the various links and relationships with Indian monsoon rainfall that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) had found. In preparing for his new post, Gilbert visited meteorological services and offices in the UK, USA, France and Germany during 1902-1903.
Early Years at the IMD • There was little scientific basis for seasonal forecasting • Walker aimed to collect all of the data available and treat it statistically without attempting to trace physical connections between cause and effect (Taylor, 1962) • Three assistants (Field, Patterson & Simpson – later directors of meteorological services in India, Canada & Britain) • Given the nature and extent of the Indian monsoon, Walker had to examine statistical connections (correlations) of global extent and with time delays (i.e. leads and lags) • Early stability and workable staff numbers suffered with the departure of Dr Simpson on Scott’s Polar Expedition in 1910, the resignation of Mr Patterson, and illness among the other officers • With the Great War draining the European staff from the IMD routine work was with difficulty kept up to date and research work became impossible(Meteorological Office, India, 1925)
Achievements as Head of the IMD Distribution of stations that display varying associations with atmospheric pressure fluctuations in Indiaand at Cordoba in South America (after Lockyer and Lockyer, 1904) • Pioneered statistical forecasting - formed a ’human computer’ with Indian staff performing a mass of statistical correlations using data from around the world • Set up the network of upper air observatories across India • Expanded and improved meteorological services for shipping • Improved the solar observatory at Kodiakanal (under Jack Evershed) • Set up an experimental meteorological laboratory and workshop Walker’s first forecast of Indian monsoon rainfall in 1909, using a regression equation All-India Monsoon Rainfall = -0.2 [Himalayan snowfall accumulation] -0.29 [Mauritius pressure] +0.28 [mean of South American pressure] -0.12 [Zanzibar rainfall]
At Simla, Gilbert Walker found the perfect environment in which to develop and enjoy hiswider interests • bird flight & aerodynamics (gliding) • throwing boomerangs on the playing fields at Annandale • climbing and walking • painting (Simla Art Exhibition) • ice skating • flute playing (theory, practise & evolution) Playing fields at Annandale, Simla Walker in Simla
Imperial College and Oscillations • After completing his tenure in India in December 1923, Walker was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in September 1924, a post he held until he retired in 1934 • A series of papers authored by Gilbert Walker and Edward Bliss on global climatic fluctuations presented the scientific findings for which he is most remembered • This research was made possible by the masses of worldwide correlations produced by his ‘human calculator’ during his time in India, and his pioneering work on the criteria for statistical significance • In a paper on world weather correlations in 1924, Walker first introduced the terms Southern Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, and North Pacific Oscillation
Positive Phase Negative Phase The North Atlantic Oscillation
Sir Gilbert Walker RMS Symons Gold Medallist 1934 Honours 1920s: Vice President & President of the Royal Meteorological Society(RMS) 1924: Knighted in the King’s Birthday Honours 1934: RMS Symons Gold Medallist 1934: Royal Aeronautical Society Simms Gold Medallist 1935-1939: Member of RMS Council 1934-1941:Editor of the Quarterly Journalof the Royal Meteorological Society 1946:Honorary Fellow of Imperial College 1952: Honorary Member of the RMS
Personal Life • Married May Constance Carter in 1908 • Daughter Verity Micheline Walker born 1910 • Son Michael Walker born 1917 Walker’s health suffered from the strain of running the IMD, with its continual shortfalls and fluctuations in accommodation, finances and staff. In IMD official documentation,Walker is noted as being away in Europe on a combination of privilege and medical leave from July 1911 to April 1912. Sir Gilbert Walker died on 4 November 1958 at Woodcote Grove House, Coulsdon, Surrey, aged 90 Gilbert Walker with sonMichael in England
The Sir Gilbert Walker Gold Medal This award, instituted by the Indian Meteorological Society in 2001, is given biennially to an eminent Indian or foreign scientist internationally recognised in the field of monsoon studies. 2001: Professor Jagadish ShuklaHead of the Center for Ocean-Land- Atmosphere Studies & the School of Computational Science at George Mason University, USA 2003: Dr P.K. DasFellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, & former Professor of Meteorology, Centre for Atmospheric Physics, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi
“I think that the relationships of world weather are so complex that our only chance of explaining them is to accumulate the facts empirically; we know that it was impossible to explain cyclones (lows) until data of the upper air conditions were available, and there is a strong presumption that when we have data of pressure and temperature at 10 and 20 km, we shall find a number of new relations that are of vital importance.” Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker, 1932
“He was a very normal human being, with none of the proverbial eccentricities of mathematicians among whom he ranked high. This normality itself is perhaps a great and likable distinction.”(Sohoni, 1959)