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Media Release
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Greg Hunt MP

24 March 2005

Death of Dr Bill Gibbs, former Director of Meteorology


Dr Bill Gibbs OBE, former Australian Director of Meteorology and an influential international figure in meteorology, has died in Melbourne, aged 88.

Tributes to his achievements were paid during a service in Melbourne on March 22, and during World Meteorological Day functions on March 23.

Dr Gibbs was remembered for his drive, scientific leadership, international standing and generosity during his 39 years with the Bureau. As Director between 1962-1978, he led the Bureau into the technological age of weather computing, weather satellites and weather radar, and enhanced the stature of meteorology to the enduring benefit of the community.

As a young meteorologist, he was present at the postwar establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. This focused his mind on international cooperation and shaped the future development of Australia meteorology - he was to serve as a WMO Vice President.

In an interview in 1985, he said: “Perhaps more than anything, I was struck by the will of meteorologists the world over to cooperate for the common good.” His work in fostering international cooperation in meteorology is rated by his successor, former director of meteorology Dr John Zillman, as Dr Gibbs' greatest contribution.

Born in 1916 at Bondi, NSW, Bill Gibbs was raised by his mother and grandparents following the death of his father during WWI. His lifelong fascination with meteorology was born during studies at Sydney University.

Bill joined the Bureau in 1940, and was sent with the RAAF Meteorological Service to Port Moresby, where forecasting duties were occasionally interrupted by bombing raids. Most of his wartime forecasting (and urgent studies into the little researched field of tropical meteorology) was at Allied headquarters in Brisbane.

Dr Gibbs brought experience in research and operational meteorology to the position of Director. He played a key role in designing the World Meteorological Organization's World Weather Watch, a system of exchange of weather information that today involves almost every county in the world.

He is survived by his wife Audrey, four children, and their families.

Media Contact:
Fiona Murphy (Mr Hunt's office) 0423 577 045

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