After Sir Gilbert Walker was appointed as the Director General of the India Meteorological Department in 1904, one of his earliest actions was to recruit three fellow-workers in the (rather pompously named) grade of Imperial Meteorologist. These three were George Simpson, John Patterson, and John Field, all of whom distinguished themselves in their own careers. Simpson became the longest-serving Director of the U. K. Meteorological Office. Patterson rose to be the Director of the Meteorological Service of Canada. Field succeeded Walker himself as the Director General of India Meteorological Department on his retirement in 1924.

Sir George Clarke Simpson was born in Derby in 1878. He had his education at Owens College, Manchester. He had the distinction of being the first lecturer in meteorology at a British University, the University of Manchester, in 1905.

In December 1906, Simpson was appointed as Imperial Meteorologist in the Simla Headquarters of the India Meteorological Department. He is understood to have spent considerable time in carrying out an inspection of meteorological stations in India and Burma (now Myanmar).

In 1910, Simpson left on a 3-year leave to join as a member of the British Expedition to the South Pole under the leadership of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Simpson had carried with him as excellent well-calibrated set of meteorological instruments, and he himself recorded the temperature and wind observations at the base camp at Cape Evans for two years 1911-12. He had also held command of this station when Scott and his party went to the south pole, never to return.

Simpson came back to Simla from Antarctica in August 1912, but the First World War broke out in 1914, and many officers of IMD were drafted for military service. From March to May 1916, Simpson had to perform army service as the meteorological adviser to the British Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia, which now forms part of southern Iraq. Later, he was called upon to serve as Assistant Secretary to the Board of Munitions and had to leave Simla again.

After the end of the war in 1918, Simpson was honoured with an appointment as the Director of the Meteorological Office, London. He held this position for the longest tenure from 1920 to 1938, during which he was engaged in research work in the fields of atmospheric electricity, ionization, radioactivity and solar radiation. One of his major contributions to operational meteorology was the modification of the Beaufort Wind Scale which made it possible to use it over land. Simpson’s scale, introduced in 1926, is still in use although his name is not associated with it.

Again, when the Second World War began in 1939, Dr Simpson was recalled from retirement into active service and asked to take charge of the Kew observatory. There he continued his research work on the electrical structure of thunderstorms until 1947. Simpson was awarded honorary doctoral degrees by the universities of Manchester, Sydney and Aberdeen. Dr Simpson died in 1965 at the age of 87.

(This post is based upon information retrieved from internet and print sources. It may be in need of correction and addition. – R. R. Kelkar)

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