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.

John Patterson was the only Canadian to have worked in the India Meteorological Department. He was born in Oxford County, Ontario in Canada on 3 January 1872. He was educated at the University of Toronto from where he received an engineering degree in 1899. His physics degree in 1900 came along with a gold medal and he could go on a two-year scholarship to Cambridge University to obtain a master’s degree.

After completing his university education, Patterson came to India on a teaching assignment as Professor of Physics at the University of Allahabad. However, soon thereafter, he was chosen by Gilbert Walker for appointment as Imperial Meteorologist in the India Meteorological Department. He joined in this capacity in January 1905 at the IMD Headquarters at Simla and worked there for five years.

In 1910, Patterson decided to return to Canada to serve the Meteorological Service of his country, and he was assigned the responsibility of organizing a pilot balloon system for upper air observations. During the First World War, his services were seconded to the British Admiralty in 1917 for experimental work on the extraction of helium from natural gas. When the war ended, Patterson came back to Canada and spent several years in designing a new barometer and a 3-cup anemometer which were later brought into operational use.

In 1924, Patterson was appointed Assistant Director, and in 1929 he succeeded Sir Frederic Stupart as the Director of the Meteorological Service of Canada. He had a long tenure of 17 years in this top position, during which he had to steer his Service through the difficult years of economic depression and to meet the needs of the Second World War and the growth of civil aviation. In order to bring in more science into the service, he persuaded the University of Toronto to start a post-graduate programme in meteorology.

Patterson retired from active service in 1946. He died on 22 February 1956.

(This post has been written on the basis of information available on the web and in print. It may be in need of correction or addition – R. R. Kelkar)

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