The John Patterson Medal

Honour Roll of Winners of the John Patterson Medal

The Patterson Distinguished Service Medal is presented each year for distinguished service to meteorology in Canada.  The medal was established in honour of Dr. John Patterson (1872-1956), Controller (director) of the Meteorological Service of Canada from 1929 to 1946.

Born in Oxford County, Ontario, John Patterson took degrees in Engineering in 1899 and the following year in Physics at the University of Toronto.  He won the Gold Medal in the latter subject and was awarded a two-year scholarship enabling him to attend Cambridge University where he obtained an MA.  He was then appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Allahabad a position he relinquished in 1905 to become Imperial Meteorologist for the Government of India. He returned to Canada in 1910 to become the meteorological physicist responsible for organizing upper air investigations in Canada. In 1917 he was loaned to the British Admiralty to take charge of investigations to extract helium from natural gas.  After the war, Patterson spent several years designing a new barometer for operational use and perfecting a new 3-cup anemometer which was later used extensively by meteorological services.  In 1924 he was appointed Assistant Director and in 1929 he succeeded Sir Frederic Stupart as Director of the Meteorological Service of Canada..

Despite budget reductions in the Depression years of the early 1930s, Dr. Patterson modernized the Service and, recognizing the need to introduce more science into weather forecasting, he persuaded the University of Toronto to establish a postgraduate degree program in physics (meteorology). In 1937, the meteorological service became part of Air Services of the new Department of Transport and resources became available for aviation meteorology.  Then, Patterson organized meteorological services for both transatlantic experimental flights and scheduled flying of the new Trans-Canada Air Lines (now Air Canada). After World War II began Canada became the host country for aircrew training under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and the need for aviation meteorological services expanded tenfold.  Under Dr. Patterson's leadership hundreds of new meteorologists were trained and sent to serve at dozens of Royal Canadian Air Force stations.

When Dr. Patterson retired in 1946 his colleagues and friends established a fund to award a medal in his name and the first one was presented to him in 1954.  Following a gap of seven years, the medal has been awarded annually since 1961. The Meteorological Service of Canada now funds the medal.  The Assistant Deputy Minister chairs the the Patterson Medal Committee which is composed of senior managers from MSC as well as representatives from the private sector and academia.  Nominations are solicited each year and the nominees are judged solely on the basis of the information provided by the nominators and not by any personal or supplementary knowledge the Committee members may possess.

revised: 21 August 2006
Morley Thomas, CMOS Archivist & MSC Volunteer Historian

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