Vale Sir Patrick Moore 1923-2012

Patrick Moore in August 2013_Flickr_Rusty Sheriff

Sir Patrick Moore photographed on 13 August 2008. Courtesy Rusty Sheriff and Flickr

Astronomers around the world have been saddened by the death of astronomy broadcaster, populizer and prolific author Sir Patrick Moore. As reported in the media, Sir Patrick died at the age of 89 at his home in Selsey, West Sussex. He has inspired many of the current generation of astronomers, both professional and amateur, to take up the science. In Britain he was also widely known to the general public as well through his media appearances, especially through his record-breaking BBC television program, The Sky at Night.

Fellow curator at the Powerhouse Museum, Paul Donnelly, who trained as an archaeologist and grew up in the UK says, ‘during the whole of the 60 and 70s Moore was a VERY regular fixture on the Teev and his distinctive asymmetry and style was frequently (lovingly) parodied by comedians of the day!’

Sir Patrick was president of the British Astronomical Association in the early 1980s, after having joined the association at the age of 11. The current president, Professor Bill Leatherbarrow, says:

There can be few BAA members who do not owe their interest in astronomy to the influence of Patrick, either through his numerous publications or his monthly “Sky at Night” television programme. His enthusiasm was deeply infectious, and what he had to say was truly inspirational.

Selection of Patrick moore books

Patrick Moore was a prolific author. Here is a selection his books. Photo Nick Lomb

Patrick Moore came to my notice when I received the Boys’ Book of Astronomy as a prize in primary school. I met him many years later in 1982 when to my surprise I found that I was coordinating a visit by him to Sydney. As at that time he had just been awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, when I first met him I approached him with trepidation saying, ‘Dr Moore?’ He immediately put me at ease and asked me to call him Patrick like everyone else. Although he was unimpressed by my choice of hotel for him at the Rocks, the visit went well. On the evening of his arrival, there was an informal meeting with him over drinks for selected members of the NSW Branch of the British Astronomical Association (now the Sydney City Skywatchers) of which he was, and remained, patron. He was most pleasant and entertained the group that evening for hours with non-stop fascinating stories about astronomy.

During his visit Patrick also gave a talk on his special subject the Moon to a packed audience of Branch members at Sydney Observatory. As there were so many people that they could not all fit in the lecture room, a video camera was used to show the talk in the Observatory foyer to an overflow audience. This arrangement allowed the talk to be recorded and the video of the event still exists, now converted to DVD. In recent times parts of the DVD have been shown at Skywatcher meetings and I am sure that it will be shown again in the near future. Those watching the video will hear a great talk presented by someone who talks faster than anyone else that I have ever heard.

My last contact with Patrick Moore was when I wrote to him in 2008 on behalf of Sydney Observatory and the Sydney City Skywatchers to congratulate him on his 85th birthday. I was pleased to receive a gracious note from him in reply that had clearly been typed on an old and old-fashioned typewriter.

Sir Patrick Moore was a unique person, with great abilities, an excellent communicator and a wonderful ambassador for astronomy. He will be missed by his many many fans around the globe.

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