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Weather News


Fifty Years of Weather History
Weather Officers—25 Years Ago
The Perth RO Since 1929
Remember the Pioneers
Akeroyd the Great
Out with the Old—In with the New [Bill Gibbs / John Zillman]
Dr Bill Gibbs
Dr John Zillman
Meteorological History in the Territory
Edwin Thomas Quayle—Bureau Research Pioneer
Ninety Years Ago: Birth of the Bureau

Personal Notes



Observers and Volunteers




Contact us

Dr Bill Gibbs

No. 243 December 1978, Item 3039

Dr Bill Gibbs was born in Bondi NSW on 17 October 1916 and was educated in Sydney. He graduated from Sydney University as B Sc in 1938. He joined the Bureau on 6 November 1939 as a meteorological assistant and saw wartime services in Port Moresby and at Allied Aid HQ in Brisbane. Like most Bureau officers at the time he enlisted in the RAAF and at the time of his demobilisation in 1946 had achieved the rank of Squadron leader.

Following demobilisation Dr Gibbs transferred to the Bureau's Head Office in Melbourne but was nearly lost to the Bureau shortly afterwards when he was appointed senior lecturer in geography at the University of New England. However he elected to remain in the Bureau and was soon promoted to senior meteorologist in the Analysis and Development Section and later to Supervising Meteorologist in Research Branch.

In 1951–52 Dr Gibbs attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under a fellowship from the Commonwealth Fund of New York where he gained a Masters degree. In 1958 he became the Bureau's Assistant Director Research and in 1962 he succeeded the late L. J. Dwyer to begin his long tenure as Director of Meteorology.

The Years of Dr Gibbs' Directorship were years of great growth and development for the Bureau. Apart from the introduction of satellite technology and the development of new techniques for its application, the Bureau moved into the computer age with the purchase of its Head Office-based IBM machines. Staff in the Bureau grew from about 800 at the time of Dr Gibbs' appointment to a peak of 1958 in 1975 before the current Public Service restrictions were applied. In 1974 the various Head Office Sections all moved into a single building at 150 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne consolidating under one roof for the first time all the scattered components of the Bureau's administration and control operations. The '70s under Dr Gibbs also saw the regionalisation of the Bureau's weather services with the concentration of the Bureau's forecasting expertise in Regional Forecasting Centres.

In the international field the Melbourne-based National Meteorological Analysis Centre became one of three World Meteorological Centres of the WMO World Weather Watch system, together with centres in Washington and Moscow. Dr Gibbs was personally heavily involved in WMO matters, being a member of the WMO Executive Committee from 1963 to 1978 and First Vice-President of WMO from 1967–75.

Dr Gibbs' contribution to meteorology was recognised by the conferring of a honorary Doctorate of Science from Melbourne University in 1965 and the award of an OBE in 1968.

Dr Gibbs said that he felt the most exciting period of his time in the Bureau were the war years during his service in Port Moresby and later his involvement with General MacArthur's headquarters in Brisbane where he was a staff meteorologist to the Commander in Chief, SW Pacific. The most stimulating work he undertook while Director was in the field of international meteorology and his long involvement in WMO affairs which made him a highly respected figure among his colleagues.

However, Dr Gibbs says he achieved most satisfaction from the growth and development in the Bureau while he was Director especially in the area of satellite but also in other observing, communications and data processing systems such as computers, automatic weather stations, radar, and the new drifting buoys. He is proud also of the research effort which contributed so much to the new systems. In a parting message to Bureau staff Dr Gibbs gave special place to the sense of close comradeship among members of the Bureau which has developed from early days. He always tried to foster this sense of common cause, and his wish for the Bureau's future was that this would continue to increase during the coming years which could contain significant changes in the Bureau's structure and modes of operation.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - National Meteorological Analysis Centre

People in Bright Sparcs - Dwyer, Leonard Joseph; Gibbs, William James (Bill); Zillman, John William

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