Sir Patrick Moore death: Tributes to the astronomer

Sir Patrick Moore's contribution to the world of astronomy

Related Stories

Stars from the world of showbusiness and science have paid tribute to Sir Patrick Moore who died on Sunday.

Queen guitarist Brian May said the monocled stargazer was the "father of astronomy" in Britain.

Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse said he was one of the great science communicators of our time.

Sir Patrick, aged 89, "passed away peacefully " at his home in Selsey, West Sussex, friends and colleagues said in a statement.

He presented the BBC programme The Sky At Night for more than 50 years, making him the longest-running host of the same television show.

Start Quote

We all learned astronomy from Patrick Moore, we learned that kind of thirst and joy for knowledge that he had and shared with everybody, the whole of Britain owes its astronomy to Patrick”

End Quote Brian May

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

Sir Paul Nurse said his own decision to become a scientist was influenced by Sir Patrick. He described how as a child he attended one of his astronomy talks.

"I literally sat at his feet, listening to every word, and there were a lot of them," he told BBC News. "It was a wonderful experience for me."

He also told of the touching moment when Sir Patrick was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Society - with tears streaming down his face the astronomer said he was completely overwhelmed that the most famous science academy in the world would recognise him, "just an amateur".

Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said that despite being an amateur scientist, Sir Patrick was a total professional in his work.

"He did his homework; he absorbed new ideas quickly. To a TV audience, he was a 'character' - indeed in the earlier days of science broadcasting the demeanour of a mad professor seemed a prerequisite for media success.

"But in his case, this image overlay a lifetime commitment, a workaholic mission to explain, and an enthusiasm to promote his subject in whatever ways he could."

'Father figure'

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 Britain had lost a priceless treasure that could not be replaced.

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

"We all learned astronomy from Patrick Moore, we learned that kind of thirst and joy for knowledge that he had and shared with everybody, the whole of Britain owes its astronomy to Patrick.

"He lived and breathed his subject, and he shared it with everyone, he absolutely lived to share his knowledge, his wealth and his time. The most generous man I've ever met I would say."

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.

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

A statement issued on Sunday 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.

'Quiet ceremony'

"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."

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.

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

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

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 6ft 3in, 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."

Television presenter and physicist Prof 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.

"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 the 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."

Chat show host Jonathan Ross tweeted that Sir Patrick was not just a science communicator but an accomplished musician as well: "RIP Sir Patrick Moore. A whiz with a telescope AND on the xylophone!"

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories

RSS

Features

  • PlanesTest of nerve

    WW1 fighter pilots who navigated using a school atlas


  • Pauline Borghese What the butler saw

    Scandalous tales from the British embassy in Paris


  • A baby holds an adult's fingerSmall Data

    The time when the average age of death was zero


  • League of LegendsBattle for glory

    On the ground at League of Legends World Championship's final


  • Vinyl record pressing in AustraliaVinyl vibe

    Getting into the groove with Australia's last record maker


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.