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

    Comment number 488.

    A large man in presence and physically. Yet he lived to be 89 years old!

    He obviously inspired a lot of people in the area of astronomy over the years. But he along with (all of us) had his faults. Why do we always put people on pedestals, make them more important than the things they are endorsing?
    In this instance Gods creation of the sky and it's fullness there of.
    Psalm chapter 8 verse 3

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    A Sad Loss to all Astrolgists worldwide.
    Sir Moore brought the interest of astrology to everyone at all levels.
    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    Like many other 'scientists' of his time who made it to television (David Attenborough), he was from a privileged background which enabled him to have private tutoring. He represents the old school Tories who got where they got by privilege not merit. I respect him for his work, however I do not think that he warrants to level of superstar-dome that he's got with the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Thank you for the Sky at Night...thank you for the numerous books you wrote....and thank you for your service to the country during the war.

    However it would have been nice if you could have limited your public comments to science as those frankly right-wing bordering on racist views you exposed did you no credit at all and can't be excused by the deep hurt and loss caused during the war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    4 Minutes ago

    390.Jamie Elliott

    Congratulations on you're well deserved title of "Jerk of the Day". Enjoy.

    No, Mr. Elliot is quite right. He may have been a great astronomer but that should not blind us to the fact that he advocated racial and sexual discrimination and claimed that homosexuals spread AIDS. Celebrate his academic achievements by all means, but don't romanticize him


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