Yesterday the scientific community suffered a tragic loss, and the stars shone a little brighter, as Patrick Moore passed away on Sunday in his home in Selsey, England. At 89 years old, Moore was an accomplished scientist, author, researcher and eccentric television host. His astronomy program on BBC, called “The Sky at Night”, has been on the air since 1957 and he has published many essays, interviews, and more than 70 books on the topics of science, astronomy and space exploration. With a brilliant and imaginative mind, a love of teaching and learning and a respected and cherished television voice, Mr. Moore will be sorely missed.
Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born in the small village of Pinner in Middlesex, England on March 4th, 1923. Born with an avid curiosity and yearning for knowledge he was a voracious reader from an early age, even though heart problems often kept him from attending school regularly. At the young age of 13 Moore published a paper about the Moon, something that many people never achieve in a lifetime, and set up his own observatories. In World War II, Moore joined a bomber squadron and served his country despite his own health problems, admitting that he “wasn’t 100 percent honest about my age or fitness”.
Always a tad eccentric, Moore was known for wearing a monocle, ill-fitting suits and playing the xylophone. His eccentricities however are largely shadowed by his countless successes and contributions to the scientific community and the world.
On 26 April 1957, at 10:30 pm, the first episode of “The Sky at Night” aired, and Moore discussed the Comet Arend–Roland. In the television shows 55 years on air, Moore had countless legendary guests and interviewed the giants of aeronautics, space exploration and science. It is believed that Moore was the only person to have met the first man to fly, Orville Wright, as well as the first man in space, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, and the first man on the moon, the late Neil Armstrong. The latest episode of the show aired on the day of Moore’s passing, Sunday December 9th.
In Moore’s lifetime, in addition to his research and television work, he published over 70 books on astronomy, up until as recently as 2008. “Bang! The Complete History of the Universe”, published in 2008, was written by Moore, an astrophysicist named Chris Lintott and the guitarist from Queen, Brian May.
Moore’s family and friends are deeply saddened by his passing, and had many kind words to share. "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 internment, but a farewell event is planned for what would have been his 90th birthday in March 2013."
Queen guitarist Brian May also expressed his sadness at the loss of his colleague and friend. "Patrick was the last of a lost generation, a true gentleman, the most generous in nature that I ever knew, and an inspiration to thousands in his personal life, and to millions through his 50 years of unique broadcasting. It's no exaggeration to say that Patrick, in his tireless and ebullient communication of the magic of astronomy, inspired every British astronomer, amateur and professional, for half a century. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."
In 2001, Moore was knighted. He never married and had no children. In 1953, Moore published a novel titled “A Guide to the Moon” in which he expressed his longing for life to be found on the cratered surface, and predicted a full 16 years before Neil Armstrong and his team made their landing, that man would one day explore its rocky exterior. Moore also had hoped that the first landing would be made “not by Britain, by America or by Russia, but by representatives of a United Earth”. While this did not happen, Moore was still an influential and creative mind that helped to bring together scientists, astronauts, astronomers and ordinary people all over the world together in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of the universe.