Obit of the Day: Knight of Night
Sir Patrick Moore was precocious before he was eccentric. Having received his first astronomy book at the age of 6 he was named to the British Astronomical Association at the age of 11 and then published his first research paper (“Small Craterlets in Mare Crisium”) when he was 13.
An amateur who authored more than 100 books, Sir Patrick was best known in Britain for hosting The Sky at Night on BBC. He was named host in April 1957 when a producer wanted a host who was a “thoroughly reactionary and skeptical astronomer who knew some science and could talk.” Moore fit the bill and would do so up until his death on December 9, 2012. Moore was the “world’s longest-running presenter of a single television show” missing only one episode in 55 years.
During his time on the air Moore would interact with legends of science, astronomy, and flight including Orville Wright (“he was saddened to see the use of aircraft in warfare”), Albert Einstein (“unworldly, communicative and blissfully unaware of his unique status”), and Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (“Neil is not fond of publicity, whereas Buzz is, and is still very much in the public eye. Long may he remain so!”).
His best story: When sitting next to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, a reporter asked her, “What qualities would you look for in a man going to the Moon?” She replied, “Do you mean if I was going too?”
Born with perfect pitch, Moore would also become a prodigy on xylophone and performed on the instrument throughout his life. He also wrote dozens of xylophone compositions and six operas.
Other random notes on Sir Patrick:
- To join the Royal Air Force during World War II he not only lied about his age but also had someone take his physical for him. (He had a heart defect or epilepsy, depending on the obituary.) He served as a navigator until his medical condition was detected in 1944.
- He wrote all of his books and articles on a typewriter he was given to him as a child that dated back to 1892, or 1908. (Again, conflicting details.)
- Not a fan of politics he wrote a book titled, Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them and joined the Raving Loony Party because they “had one advantage over all the other parties – they knew they were loonies.”
- He co-authored the book Bang! The Complete History of the Universe with Brian May, guitarist from the rock band Queen, who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Sir Patrick Moore, who reportedly wore a monocle after injuring his eye during a cricket match, was knighted in 2001. He was 89 years old when he passed away.
(Image is copyright Tom Cole and courtesy radiotimes.com)
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