Writer, Amateur Astronomer and Television personality Sir Patrick Moore CBE, FRS, FRAS, sadly passed away on 9th December 2012 aged 89. Born 4 March 1923, in Pinner, Middlesex, on March 4 1923, he was the son of Captain Charles Caldwell-Moore, MC. Later the family moved to Sussex, where Patrick was to live for the rest of his life. He was educated at home owing to ill health, and wrote his first scientific paper at the age of 13 — his chosen subject was the features in a lunar crater he had seen through a small telescope. At the end of 1941 he joined the RAF to train for aircrew duties during World War II; however his fiancée was killed by a bomb during the war. during 1943 left for Canada for training as a navigator. He was commissioned in June 1944 and completed his training at a bomber conversion unit at Lossiemouth in northern Scotland but, due to epilepsy, was declared medically unfit for further flying duties. He left the Service in 1947.
From 1952 he was a freelance writer until One day in 1957 the BBC broadcast a somewhat sensationalist programme about flying saucers. Producers wanted a counterview by a “thoroughly reactionary and sceptical astronomer who knew some science and could talk”, consequently The Sky at Night was born, and it went on to become the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter & attracted millions of viewers. Moore’s Idiosyncrasies such as his rapid diction and monocle made him a popular and instantly recognisable figure on British television, where he became celebrated for the thunderous fervour with which he would utter the words: “We just don’t know!” to emphasise that our comprehension of the universe is incomplete. The secret of the program’s success lay not only in his tremendous learnedness but also in his gusto and humour & he soon attained a prominent status as a writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter and did more than anyone, with the possible exception of Arthur C Clarke, to educate the British public about astronomy and space travel. He would also happily appear on chat shows, quiz shows and comedy shows, among them The Goodies; Morecambe and Wise; Blankety Blank, and Have I Got News For You. He even starred in digitised form on the children’s video game show GamesMaster.
Moore was also a connoisseur of music, and sometimes played a xylophone on television. He also wrote the score for an opera about Theseus and the Minotaur. He was a keen sportsman too – particularly on the cricket pitch, where he proved a demon spin bowler. He also played golf and once at his local course set a club record – of 231, including a 43 on the third hole. Chess was another passion (he often carried with him a pocket chess set) and even dabbled in politics. In 1982 he wrote a humorous but inflammatory book called Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them. It advised that imposing a thin layer of candle grease on those parts of a form marked “for official use only” would prevent the recipient from writing anything and probably drive him mad. “Useful when dealing with the Inland Revenue,” said Moore.He was also A keen pipe smoker & was elected Pipeman of the Year in 1983. In addition to his many popular science books, he wrote numerous works of fiction. Moore was an opponent of fox hunting, an outspoken critic of the European Union and served as chairman of the short-lived anti-immigration United Country Party. After his fiancee was killed during World War II, he never married or had children.
Moore was also a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), author of over 70 books most of them about astronomy, As an amateur astronomer, he became known as a specialist on observing the Moon and creating the Caldwell catalogue. In 2002 Moore was appointed honorary vice-president of the Society for the History of Astronomy. He also won a Bafta for his services to television. He also continued to publish books to the end of his life. Recent titles include Patrick Moore on the Moon (2000, new edition 2006); The Data Book of Astronomy (2001); Patrick Moore: the autobiography (2005); Asteroid (with Arthur C Clarke, 2005); Stars of Destiny (2005); Ancient Lights (2008); and Can You Play Cricket on Mars? (2009). This year alone he published Astronomy with a Budget Telescope: An Introduction to Practical Observing; The Sky at Night: Answers to Questions from Across the Universe; Miaow!: Cats really are nicer than people!; and The New Astronomy Guide: Star Gazing in the Digital Age.He was appointed OBE in 1968, CBE in 1988 and knighted in 2001.In 1982 a minor planet was named after him by the International Astronomical Union. He also held the posts of president of the British Astronomical Association and director of the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland. Yet the Royal Society refused to elect him as a Fellow — one of their number declared that he had committed the ultimate sin of “making science popular”. In 2001, however, he was elected to an honorary Fellowship.