Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Tribute to Patrick Moore.

Its sad to hear one of the great TV heroes has pasted away so I thought I will dedicate a mention to Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS (4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012) . Who while I was growing up inspired me to read more about astronomy and the interests of science.

A senior BBC producer wanted a programme on astronomy, and Moore had recently appeared on television debunking UFOs. He was offered a trial. Although he knew nothing about television, Patrick Moore thought I'd just try to make the programme interesting. The producer agreed to do three programmes and see how it will go. A star was born. He never signed a contract but gave his word that he would work solely for the BBC. The programme was live until 1966, which presented the odd challenge. During one broadcast, Sir Patrick was confronted by an alarmed producer standing off-camera and holding a placard conveying bad news. It had just been discovered that the eminent Soviet astronomer about to be interviewed couldn't speak a word of English. Sir Patrick improvised; he asked questions, pretended to decipher the replies while guessing what the Russian had probably said, and then "related" it to the viewers.
In later years the BBC consigned the series to late on Sunday or the early hours of Monday (due to TV entertainment scheduling) , but it still pulls in an audience of 600,000. Repeat showings on BBC 2 and BBC 4. He has been properly employed only once, briefly at Armagh Observatory in the mid-1960s. He prefers to be his own boss: "useless as an employee too individualistic". His honours include a knighthood, a Bafta and membership of the Royal Society - and an asteroid named after him. But he is proudest when talking of those he has met.

"The first airman was Orville Wright, the first man in space was Yuri Gagarin and the first man on the Moon was Neil Armstrong, and I have met them all," he says. "Oh, and Albert Einstein. I played the piano while he played the violin. It was 1940 and I was training in Canada and got a pass down to New York and met him. He was as you would expect: charming, out of this world." Sir Patrick has no pretensions to scientific greatness. He regards himself as a straightforward observational astronomer, and is proud of being so.
In addition to his many popular science books, he wrote numerous works of fiction and was the presenter of the 1990s TV series GamesMaster. He 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 before becoming a patron of the UK Independence Party. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Moore lied about his age in order to join the RAF and fight in World War II at the age of sixteen, and from 1940 until 1945 he served as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command, reaching the rank of Flight lieutenant. He first received his flying training in Canada, during which time he met Albert Einstein and Orville Wright while on leave in New York.
The war had a significant influence on his life: his only romance ended when his fiancée, a nurse called Lorna, was killed by a bomb which struck her ambulance. Moore subsequently remarked that he never married because "there was no one else for me...second best is no good for me...I would have liked a wife and family, but it was not to be."
Moore stated that he was "exceptionally close" to his mother Gertrude, a talented artist who lived with him at his Selsey home, which is still adorned with her paintings of "bogeys" little friendly aliens which she regularly produced and which were sent out annually as Moore's Christmas cards. Moore wrote the foreword for Gertrude's 1974 book Mrs Moore In Space.

Patrick Moore has  influenced many many viewers over 55 years, his eccentric personality and modest raw talent spoke to a generations of British science enthusiasts. From the early years of TV to the latest Mars mission, The sky at Night is a British Institution. While the role of science has been place secondary to modern  entertainment and reality TV shows. Its great to have one show that stands the test of time...

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