William B. Rimmer – ‘Officer in Charge’ (1929-1939)

With the Great Depression of the 1930s affecting Government expenditure, Bill Rimmer served as ‘Officer in Charge’ in place of an Observatory Director. Born in Lancashire in 1882, Rimmer studied as an engineer and served as a Captain in the Royal Engineers during the First World War. Following the war, he decided to retrain as an astronomer and was employed as a researcher at the Lockyer Observatory in East Devon. Dr Duffield selected Rimmer as an astronomer in the Commonwealth Solar Observatory’s foundation staff.

During his time in charge, Rimmer oversaw the construction of the Heliostat, an instrument of great importance to the Observatory’s focus on solar astronomy. But financial pressures brought the future of Mount Stromlo into question – respected British astronomer William McCrea called it ‘a small, isolated and neglected Observatory.’ A review committee found that Mount Stromlo’s infrastructure and staff expertise was of scientific value, but recommended the appointment of a full-time Director to provide new leadership.