by Matthew Cobb
Sir Patrick Moore, the presenter of one of the longest-running British TV shows, The Sky At Night, has died aged 89. As its name indicates, The Sky At Night is a programme about astronomy, and Moore’s indefatigable enthusiasm and knowledge inspired generations of astronomers, both amateur and professional. Amazingly, Moore had been presenting the programme with his astonishing cut-glass accent for over half a century!
The Daily Telegraph says:
“Sir Patrick reckoned that he was the only person to have met the first man to fly, Orville Wright, the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. He outlived them all.”
In a mail to Jerry, reader Pyers rightly summed up Moore’s influence:
To be honest, with the possible exception of David Attenborough, I can think of nobody who was instrumental in getting kids (of all ages) interested in science. Just to demonstrate the esteem he was held him, he was knighted and given one of the rarest of rare accolades: an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society.
Any WEIT readers who want to tell us how they were inspired by Moore, or have any striking memories, please post them below.
The BBC website has a series of glowing quotes from the great and the good:
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: “Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life.
“Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one.”
British space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock said she was first inspired to “look at the night sky” through Sir Patrick.
“Through his regular monthly programmes he was telling us what to look for and what was out there and that was a real inspiration.
“Why [The Sky At Night] was so successful is because of his passion. He branched an amazing era, he was broadcasting before we actually went into space and so he saw a change in our understanding of the universe and he took us all the way through that, right up to today.”
Television presenter and physicist Professor Brian Cox posted a message on Twitter saying: “Very sad news about Sir Patrick. Helped inspire my love of astronomy. I will miss him!”
Space scientist Dr David Whitehouse said Sir Patrick was “the monthly source of information for youngsters interested in astronomy”.
“We relied on Patrick to tell us about the moon landings, the probe to the planets, the developments in astronomy, before the internet age.”
And Dr Marek Kakula, public astronomer at 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.”
Here’s Moore looking back over some of the best things they have covered on the last 50 years of the programme.
Here he is in 1987, giving us advice on how to buy a telescope:
And here’s an extract from a BBC4 documentary about the programme: