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Dr Fred Bushby
Fred Bushby graduated in mathematics from Imperial College, London, in 1944 and joined the RAF Meteorological Branch. In 1948, he joined the Meteorological Office and started doing numerical weather prediction in 1950. He wrote numerical simulations using EDSAC and the Ferranti Mark 1 at Manchester. This led to the construction of a 3-level geostrophic model, introduced in 1959 when the Meteorological Office acquired its own Ferranti Mercury computer.
He went on to develop an advanced 10-level primitive-equation model. This was designed to predict the development of fronts and make the first quantitative forecast of precipitation on a fine mesh 100km horizontal grid, exploiting the power of the Chilton ATLAS.
He retired in 1984 and died in 2004.
Some papers relating to the weather forecasting model developed by Fred are:
- A Ten-Level Atmospheric Model for Forecasting Rain, G R R Benwell
- How weathermen distinguish scattered showers from steady rain, A J Gadd
See also a news story from 1967.
Obituary: Weather Vol 59 Issue 8
It is with much sadness that we mark the passing of Fred Bushby on 22 January 2004, shortly after his 80th birthday (he was born on 10 January 1924). During his long career in the Met Office, Fred had been instrumental in developing numerical weather prediction for practical weather forecasting. He lived and breathed the Met Office and was the Director of Services when he retired in 1984. He was widely known in the meteorological community both at home and abroad.
Fred graduated from Imperial College in 1944 with First Class Honours in mathematics, receiving the Sir John Lubbock Memorial Prize and the Governor's Prize as the best student in his year. In normal times he would probably have gone directly into research, but instead he joined the RAF Meteorological Branch serving at several stations at home and in south-east Asia.
Following demobilisation, he joined the Met Office and was posted to the Forecasting Research Branch at the headquarters in Dunstable. This was the start of a remarkable career in numerical weather prediction spanning almost 30 years, with one break as Chief Meteorological Officer in Aden which he much enjoyed. He was involved with computers from the very early days, starting with the LEO 1 machine built for J. Lyons & Co. (based on EDSAC at Cambridge) and then the Mark I Ferranti computer at Manchester University. He often spoke of those days, involving frequent visits to Manchester with Mavis Hinds among others. The first forecast was produced in 1954 but there was a long way to go. John Sawyer provided the scientific leadership, but Fred was the master in solving the equations numerically.
The Met Office acquired its own computer in 1959, the Ferranti Mercury, but its speed of only 3000 floating point operations per second (several orders of magnitude slower than a standard desktop today) meant that operational forecasts had to wait for the Office's second computer, an English Electric KDF9. Even then it required considerable ingenuity and skill, using machine code to extract the maximum from the limited power available. The first operational numerical forecast was issued on 2 November 1965.
Meanwhile, John Mason made the bold move of promoting Fred (above others more senior in age) to Assistant Director in charge of the Forecasting Research Branch. Fred set up a strong team including Alan Gadd, Dave Burridge, Peter White and Margaret Atkins (the 'Bushby babes'). Following on work with Margaret Timpson using the advanced Atlas computer at Harwell, the team's major achievement was to develop an advanced 10-level model formulated by John Sawyer. The model was designed to predict the development of fronts and to make the first quantitative predictions of precipitation on a 100 km horizontal grid. The model was later extended to cover most of the Northern Hemisphere on a coarser grid. Both were ready for operational testing when the Office acquired the IBM 360/195 supercomputer in 1971. Their impact on the quality of general forecasts for up to 3 days ahead and of rainfall forecasts for up to 36 hours ahead was marked and immediate, putting the Met Office in the world forefront of numerical weather prediction. Fred Bushby's insight, professional expertise and enthusiasm were instrumental in transforming weather forecasting from a craft to a science.
In 1974 Fred Bushby was promoted to Deputy Director in charge of Dynamical Research and four years later to Director of Services and deputy to the Director-General. Fred had always held strong views and there was never any doubt about what he wanted to happen. Some were quite scared of him. In a competition in the Office social magazine, readers were invited to nominate the person they admired most - the winning entry was Mrs Fred Bushby! Yet for all his bluster, Fred was always willing to help people. As testimony to his softer side, he gave great support to his son Peter and to some of his close friends during difficult periods in their lives. Nevertheless, to the amusement (but not surprise) of his friends, Fred was unsuccessful in becoming a counsellor at his church - "they want me to listen, but I can tell them where they're going wrong".
Fred retired on 9 January 1984, but he retained a strong interest in the Met Office and remained active in the Meteorological Club. He was also able to pursue his leisure interests. He was a strong bridge player, reaching the rank of Life Master. He could hold his own in international company ("I rely on flair" he would say, after bringing off an outrageous coup). He won numerous events in the county and further afield, often with his partner of 37 years' standing, Colin Flood. When, early on, they won the Civil Service championship, there was some consternation among the London players who had expected the team from the provinces to be mere cannon fodder. On receiving the trophy (a large shield), Fred feigned embarrassment at having the temerity to win such a prestigious competition and added, "I'm even more embarrassed to reveal that we're only the second team because our Director-General has sent the first team to a meeting in Geneva"! John Mason received a visit from Fred (with trophy) early the following morning.
Fred played bowls at Bracknell, always competitively. He liked the mountains, with frequent holidays in Switzerland, Scotland and the Lake District. He followed sport keenly - cricket (Hampshire), football (Portsmouth and the 1939 Cup Final), American football and the horses, where his not infrequent successes helped to swell the church funds. Fred was a generous man and a natural storyteller - he loved to present everyday events in a mischievously misleading way.
Fred Bushby had overseen a total transformation in the way weather forecasting is carried out. He was utterly loyal to the Met Office and its staff throughout - and he will be remembered with affection and admiration by his wife, his son, and his many friends and colleagues.