Eric Webb – 50 years with CSIRO Aspendale

October 12th, 2020

WEBB, Eric Kenneth
17.12.1921 – 30.9/2020

Eric was born in Camberwell to parents Eric Roger and Florence Isobel (nee Balderson). He had a younger sister, Jean, and a younger brother, Donald (both now deceased).

Eric grew up in Mitcham and attended Vermont South Primary School, Mont Albert Central, and then spent two years at Box Hill High School. He was a member of the Scouts, and attended a large International Scout Jamboree in Frankston in 1934/5, which was opened by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Encouraged by his uncle, Loris Balderson, Eric became very interested in radio, and in 1937 at the age of 15 years and 2 months, he obtained his Amateur Radio Operators Licence (we think he is the youngest in Australia ever to receive this).

Leaving school at 16, he worked for 3AK as Radio Broadcast Technician, then during the war years in a Reserved Occupation as an Engineering Draftsman in Design and Development. Throughout these years he studied with Taylors Correspondence School, and then in 1946 he enrolled full-time at Melbourne University. Eric graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in 1949 and a Bachelor of Science in 1950.

Eric was also very musical – he played clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone, and piano – and he played in dance bands in the 1940s and early 50s, often at the Dandenong Town Hall, thus supplementing his income. Later in life he was a member of Musica Viva, and he enjoyed Theatre Organ. He was a member of the Theatre Organ Society of Australia, and helped with the installation of the Compton Organ at the Malvern Town Hall in 1991.

While at Melbourne University, Eric joined the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. He became a Club Climbing Leader and was the club President from 1954 to 1956. He led trips to the Grampians, Sugarloaf and the Warrumbungles. He climbed Federation Peak in South-West Tasmania in 1951 and 1953, and in 1955 led a party to the top, being the first to tackle it from the rugged Southern approach. In 1957 and 1959 he climbed Uluru with a small group.

In June 1950, Eric started work with the C.S.I.R.O. Atmospheric Physics division in Aspendale. He became a Principal Research Scientist, and after retirement continued there as an Honorary Research Fellow. He was with C.S.I.R.O. for just on 50 years. In 1958/9 he spent five months at Cooma North studying evaporation on Lake Eucumbene. He published well over 20 scientific papers, and edited a multi-author book “Windows on Meteorology: Australian Perspective”, which was published in 1997.

Hanging up his ropes and boots, at the age of 39, Eric obtained his single-engine pilot’s licence, later adding endorsements for twin-engine and night flying. Within two weeks of this, he went overseas in August 1961 for a year, studying and visiting universities in the USA, Israel, Germany, Scotland and England. He was fluent in German, and competent in French and Russian.

At the end of 1965 Eric met Pat, and they married a year later on 3rd December, 1966. He was very excited and happy to have a ready-made family (Peter and Mark), and this was completed in 1969 with the birth of Robert.

In the 1970s Eric presented a short series of lectures at Melbourne and Monash Universities, and at Flinders University in South Australia. These were on Turbulence and Oceanography. In 1975 he worked at Imperial College London for about five months.

Pat and Eric enjoyed several overseas holidays, including some to Japan in the 1990s.

A long-time member of the Australian & New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), Eric became Chairperson from 2002 – 2006/7.

Due to failing health, Eric’s “home” from August 2015 was the MECWA Noel Miller Centre in Glen Iris, where he was known for his lovely smile and where Pat visited him almost daily for just over 5 years.