Gilbert Walker

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For the 19th-century provisional governor of Virginia, see Gilbert Carlton Walker. For the English cricketer, see Gilbert Walker (cricketer).
Gilbert Walker
Born Gilbert Thomas Walker
(1868-06-14)14 June 1868
Rochdale, Lancashire
Died 4 November 1958(1958-11-04) (aged 90)
Coulsdon, Surrey
Fields Meteorology, Statistician
Institutions University of Cambridge
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Imperial College London
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Adams Prize (1899)

Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker, CSI, FRS[1] (14 June 1868 – 4 November 1958) was a British physicist and statistician of the 20th century. He is best known for his groundbreaking description of the Southern Oscillation, a major phenomenon of global climate, for discovering Walker circulation, and for greatly advancing the study of climate in general.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in Rochdale, Lancashire on 14 June 1868, the fourth of seven children of Thomas Walker and Charlotte Haslehurst. He attended Whitgift School and St Paul's School, gained a degree in Metallurgy from Imperial College London and attended Trinity College, Cambridge where he was Senior Wrangler in 1889.[2][3]


Walker was an established applied mathematician at the University of Cambridge when he become director-general of observatories in India in 1904.[3] While there, he studied the characteristics of the Indian Ocean monsoon, the failure of whose rains had brought severe famine to the country in 1899. Analyzing vast amounts of weather data from India and lands beyond, over the next fifteen years he published the first descriptions of the great seesaw oscillation of atmospheric pressure between the Indian and Pacific Ocean, and its correlation to temperature and rainfall patterns across much of the Earth's tropical regions, including India. He is also worked with the Indian Meteorological Department especially in linking the moonsoon with Southern Oscillation phenomenon. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Star of India in 1911.[3]

Walker continued his studies of yearly weather and climate change after his retirement from India (in 1924) and acceptance of a professorship in meteorology at Imperial College London. He had only mixed success in his original goal, the prediction of monsoonal failures; however, his theories and broad body of supporting research represented an invaluable step forward, allowing his successors in climate study to move beyond local observation and forecasting toward comprehensive models of climate worldwide. He served as president of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1926 to 1927.

He died at Coulsdon, Surrey on 4 November 1958. He was 90 years old.


  1. ^ a b Taylor, G. I. (1962). "Gilbert Thomas Walker 1868-1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 8: 166. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1962.0013. 
  2. ^ "Walker, Gilbert Thomas (WLKR885GT)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b c C. Hayavando Rao, ed. (1915). The Indian Biographical Dictionary. Madras: Pillar & Co. p. 456. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 

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