(Sen) - Sir Patrick Moore, the astronomer, died at his home in Selsey, Sussex on Sunday December 9. He was 89 years old.
Born on March 4, 1923, Patrick became interested in space from a very early age, joining his first astronomy society at the age of 11 and publishing his first paper on the Moon aged 13. He went on to become one of the most famous astronomers in the world and inspired generations to look up at the stars with his books and BBC television show The Sky at Night.
The show was first broadcast in April 1957 when Patrick was just 34 years old, and he went on to present it for 55 years, a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. His last show was broadcast recently, and during his five and a half decades presenting he only missed one show when he suffered from food poisoning after eating a dodgy duck egg. In 2001 he was knighted and also received a BAFTA for services to television, an award presented by one his many astronaut friends, Buzz Aldrin.
All those who had the privilege of meeting him would say he was generous and unassuming, willing to help and encourage everyone who expressed an interest in astronomy.
Patrick never had any formal qualifications, deciding to join the Royal Air Force instead of taking his place at university. In the RAF he served as a navigator for Bomber Command during the second World War, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. His fiancée, Lorna, was killed during the war and he never married. As well as his passion for astronomy, he loved cats and music and once played the piano with Albert Einstein.
Sir Patrick's enthusiasm was infectious and inspired generations of young people to take up stargazing as a hobby or science as a career. Many well known scientists and astronomers including Professor Brian Cox and Sen writers Mark Thompson and Paul Sutherland were inspired to take up their careers by Sir Patrick.
Sen writer Paul Sutherland recalls: "He could be extraordinarily kind. When I had to spend a week in hospital, 50 miles from home, for minor surgery at the age of 12, my mother wrote to tell him. I was astonished to look up from my bed to see this familiar figure that I knew from staying up late to watch The Sky At Night, striding down the ward towards me."
Years later Paul and a school friend set up a local stargazers club in Thanet, on the remote, easternmost tip of Kent. Patrick was invited to give a talk and didn't hesitate to make the long journey in his battered old car, which he called the Ark, to give an evening talk to remember. Patrick quipped that his car was so slow it was regularly overtaken by cyclists. He was given tea by Paul's parents, Paul's seven-year-old brother noting that he ate nine cakes, and stayed the night at the Sutherland's house, a thrill for then teenager Paul.
As for my memories, I had the privilege to interview him in March 2010 at his home called Farthings. He was very kind and so generous with his time, despite not feeling all that well on the day. He put a tie on for our interview and then asked "would you like me to put a jacket on?" I found it very humbling that he cared so much to help. He had two observatories in his garden and offered me the keys so I could go and look at them, and he was happy for me to spend as much time as I wanted browsing his many books and pictures that covered the walls of his home. I talked to him about Sen and he said he would do anything he could to help.
Whilst talking he asked me to help retreive a chewy treat out of his desk drawer for one of his cats who had joined us. A few days later he took the time to call me to say we could use his beginners guide to astronomy on the sen web site to help those interested in taking the first steps toward the night sky. Everytime I called him 'Sir' he said "Patrick". He said I just had to ask for more help. He never gave up helping.