Sir Patrick Moore, astronomer and broadcaster, dies aged 89

 

Sir Patrick Moore's contribution to the world of astronomy

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British astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore has died, aged 89.

He "passed away peacefully at 12:25 this afternoon" at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, friends and colleagues said in a statement.

Sir Patrick presented the BBC programme The Sky At Night for over 50 years, making him the longest-running host of the same television show ever.

He wrote dozens of books on astronomy and his research was used by the US and the Russians in their space programmes.

Described by one of his close friends as "fearlessly eccentric", Sir Patrick was notable for his habit of wearing a monocle on screen and his idiosyncratic style.

Start Quote

Through his regular monthly programmes he was telling us what to look for and what was out there and that was a real inspiration”

End Quote Maggie Aderin-Pocock Space scientist

Sir Patrick presented the first edition of The Sky at Night on 24 April 1957. He last appeared in an episode broadcast on Monday.

A statement by his friends and staff said: "After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.

"Over the past few years, Patrick, an inspiration to generations of astronomers, fought his way back from many serious spells of illness and continued to work and write at a great rate, but this time his body was too weak to overcome the infection which set in, a few weeks ago.

"He was able to perform on his world record-holding TV programme The Sky at Night right up until the most recent episode .

"His executors and close friends plan to fulfil his wishes for a quiet ceremony of interment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been Patrick's 90th birthday in March 2013."

'Father figure'

Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 Mar 1923.

Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers' book, The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy.

Sir Patrick Moore was the voice of the space age.

I recall as a child not following every detail of that famously rapid patter but I never minded - because like everyone who watched his broadcasts I was swept along by his extraordinary energy and excitement.

Here was someone who could catch the mood of a world enthralled by a heady mix of discovery and achievement.

With rockets launching satellites and then astronauts above Earth and beyond, there was no greater enthusiast to chronicle and illuminate an exhilarating new era of exploration.

Generations grew up with Patrick Moore as their guide and he proved hugely influential. Astronomy was no longer a niche activity.

The man with the monocle had touched people who had never even thought of stargazing.

When war came he turned down a place at Cambridge and lied about his age to join the RAF, serving as a navigator with Bomber Command and rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

But the war brought him a personal tragedy after his fiancee, Lorna, was killed when an ambulance she was driving was hit by a bomb. He never married.

Sir Patrick, who had a pacemaker fitted in 2006 and received a knighthood in 2001, won a Bafta for services to television and was a honorary fellow of the Royal Society.

He was a member of the UK Independence party and, briefly, the finance minister for the Monster Raving Loony Party, and attracted some controversy for his outspoken views on Europe and immigration.

Fellow scientists speak of how Sir Patrick inspired a generation

His other TV credits include the role of Gamesmaster in the 1990s computer games show of the same name.

BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh said Sir Patrick's appearance sometimes aroused as much comment as his astronomy: "He was six-foot-three, and was once described as having 'an air of donnish dishevelment', with his raised eyebrow, scarcely-brushed hair and poorly-fitting suits.

"His enthusiasm was unstoppable, and on occasions he would talk at 300 words a minute."

Queen guitarist Brian May, who published a book on astronomy written with Sir Patrick, described him as a "dear friend, and a kind of father figure to me".

He said: "Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life.

"Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."

Television presenter and physicist Professor Brian Cox posted a message on Twitter saying: "Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!"

The acting director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said his achievements at the corporation "were unmatched", adding that Sir Patrick will be missed by his "countless fans".

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "Since I first met Sir Patrick when he dominated a UKIP stage in 1999, he has been a friend and an inspiration - not only to us in UKIP, but across the country and around the world. Today we have seen the passing of a true great, and a true Englishman."

The Sky At Night through the years

And Dr Marek Kakula, public astronomer at Royal Observatory in Greenwich, described him as a "very charming and hospitable man".

"When you came to his home he would always make sure you had enough to eat and drink. He was full of really entertaining and amusing stories.

"There are many many professional astronomers like me who can actually date their interest in astronomy to watching Patrick on TV, so his impact on the world of professional astronomy as well as amateur is hard to overstate."

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1110.

    There will be a black hole left in the field of astronomy where there once shone the brightest of stars.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1109.

    Patrick was my lifetime hero and I will miss him terribly. He inspired my interest in Astronomy & the Universe from my early life & throughout. He also inspired many others like me from a humble background that having a passion for your interest, even as an amateur, is still valuable for adding to our great quest for knowledge and understanding of our beautiful universe. Your spirit lives on.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1108.

    1075. Lucaslabrador

    So do you have any proof that he somehow somewhere continues to exist? Until you do, why should there be any coverage of your bizarre fantasies?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1107.

    1097.The Ship that died of shame
    8 Minutes ago
    1042. Porcelainblack
    I wonder if the BBC would have been so keen to keep him presenting so late in life if he had been a woman
    /////////
    I am sure they would.

    +++

    They haven't cast J Bakewell adrift.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1106.

    1100. Jan-Ann
    So what? He brought astromony to our screens, not his beliefs. He didn't try to use his TV status to impose his spiritual/political thoughts on to anybody else, so good for him.
    ///////
    I totally agree. I disagreed with some of PM's views, but that had nothing to do with the sheer excellence of Sky at Night. I am truly sad and hope the BBC will ensure his legacy is preserved.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1105.

    A true gentleman. I have met Sir Patrick on a couple of occasions and he was a true inspiration... not just in astronomy but in live. He will be sorely missed.

    I hope The Sky at Night continues in his honour to inspire people young and old for many years to come.

    RIP Sir Patrick.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1104.

    With a very limited knowledge of astronomy I went to see Sir Patrick lecture twice,and found him inspirational.Such a great man.RIP

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1103.

    I met Sir Patrick Moore at the opening of my schools new science block, many years ago. He was one of the first teachers at Holmewood House School. His return, was truly inspiring and encouraged us to embrace science in a whole new light.
    You will be greatly missed by all who followed and loved you.
    RIP

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1102.

    Love & respect - what Moore is there to say?!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1101.

    RIP Sir Patrick,
    I too learned my love of astronomy from being allowed to stay up late as a child to watch The Sky at Night programmes in the 1960's. And it was a total pleasure to meet him at a book signing, leaving me with something to treasure.
    'The show must go on' and those are very big inspirational shoes to fill....How about the two Brian's taking over? (Brian May and Brian Cox).
    ;-DK

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1100.

    "How interesting there are no comments about what happened to Patrick. Patrick believed in the science religion, with all that entails,"

    So what? He brought astromony to our screens, not his beliefs. He didn't try to use his TV status to impose his spiritual/political thoughts on to anybody else, so good for him.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1099.

    People are far too quick to look past his political views. Praising him for his TV work is like justifying other bad men with comments like; 'but he got the trains running on time' and 'but he was a vegetarian and was nice to animals'

  • Comment number 1098.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1097.

    1042. Porcelainblack
    I wonder if the BBC would have been so keen to keep him presenting so late in life if he had been a woman
    /////////
    I am sure they would.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1096.

    Patrick lived next door to my grand parents in East Grinstead and I remember going round for afternoon tea in his summer house and being shown the black and white photos taken by the Americans of the dark side of the moon.
    Patrick also took part in several Scout Gang Shows in East Grinstead. His rendition of Come into the Garden Maud performed with other Scouters is a wonderful memory!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1095.

    Like many of the others, I saw Patrick Moore give a talk (I believe it was on extra-terrestrial life) when I was about nine. This was at the Brixton library a year or two before we emigrated to NY and was important since I was allowed to take the bus home by myself. I distinctly remember being introduced to the the concept of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters) in his humorous "magic lantern" slide show.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1094.

    may Sir Patrick's soul rest in peace.
    i'm from india and i still have a book written by Sir Patrick,called Night Skywatching and the Atlas of the Solar System,written by him.i had a deep interest in astronomy since my childhood days and those were the 1st books on astronomy that my father had bought for me,which amplified my interest in astronomy a hundred fold.
    i cherished reading those books.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1093.

    If anyone has ever earnt the honour to have his ashes scattered in space by whom ever goes there next..It is Sir Patrick Moore. R.I.P.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1092.

    A true great of the scientific community. His passion for astronomy and science in general will be greatly missed.

    My friends and I will be raising a glass to his memory and wish him well on his final journey to the stars.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1091.

    @1075.Lucaslabrador - I don't think it's appropriate to make comments about like yours hours after the man has died. It's extremely disrespectful to both him and those mourning his departure. Whatever he believed he faced at death is non of your business quite frankly. This is the time to HONOUR his memory, not insult it.

 

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