Sir Patrick Moore
Born 04 March 1923 (1923-03-04) (age 98)
Pinner, Middlesex, England
Occupation Writer, broadcaster and astronomer

Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, HonFRS, FRAS (born 4 March 1923 in Pinner), known as Patrick Moore, is a British amateur astronomer who has attained prominent status in astronomy as a writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter of the subject, and who is credited as having done more than any other to raise the profile of astronomy among the British general public.

He is a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, author of over 70 books on astronomy, and presenter of the longest running television series (with the same original presenter), The Sky at Night on the BBC. As an amateur astronomer, he became known as a specialist on observing the Moon. Idiosyncrasies such as his rapid diction and his monocle have made him a popular figure on other British television shows (including his appearance as the Gamesmaster).

Moore is also a self-taught musician and accomplished composer. His favourite genres are 19th century Viennese waltzes and marches, but he has also turned to ragtime, polkas, and a nocturne. In 1981 he performed a solo xylophone rendition of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" in a Royal Variety Performance.[1]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Moore was born in Pinner in Middlesex to Captain Charles Trachsel Caldwell-Moore MC (died 1947) and Gertrude, née White (died 1981) and moved to East Grinstead in Sussex, where he spent his childhood. His youth was marked by poor health and as a result he was educated at home by private tutors. He developed an interest in astronomy at the age of six and joined the British Astronomical Association at the age of eleven.

In the Second World War Moore lied about his age in order to join the RAF and from 1940 until 1945 he served as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He first received his flight 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 known romance ended when his fiancée, a nurse, 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."[2]

After the war, Moore eventually set up home at Selsey on the West Sussex coast, a location that probably enjoys the highest annual total of clear night skies of any location in the UK mainland. Here he constructed a home-made reflecting telescope in his garden and began to observe the Moon. He was fascinated by the subject and he is now acknowledged as a specialist in lunar observation, one of his particular areas of expertise being the study of the glimpses of the Moon's far side that are occasionally visible due to the Moon's libration. He was also an early observer of transient lunar phenomena: short-lived glowing areas on the lunar surface.

Moore was very close to his mother, 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 Getrude's 1974 book "Mrs Moore In Space".[3]

Television[edit | edit source]

On 26 April 1957, at 10:30 pm, in an event that was to be a landmark of his career, Moore presented the first episode of The Sky at Night, a BBC television programme for astronomy enthusiasts. Since then, he has presented every episode each month, excepting July 2004, because of a near-fatal bout of food poisoning caused by eating a contaminated goose egg. Moore appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest-serving TV presenter, by virtue of having presented the show since 1957. Early editions of The Sky at Night were transmitted live and on one occasion he swallowed a fly live on air. Since 2004, the programme has been presented from Moore's home, as he is no longer able to travel to the studios, owing to arthritis.

On 1 April 2007, a 50th anniversary semi-spoof edition of the programme was broadcast on BBC1, with Moore depicted as a Time lord and featuring, as special guests, amateur astronomers Jon Culshaw (impersonating Moore presenting the very first The Sky At Night) and Brian May. This tongue-in-cheek edition of the show included a look-ahead to the state of astronomy in the year 2057, with May recalling his appearance in a disastrous concert on the Moon, in which an accident resulted in an explosion of rocket fuel that sent Queen drummer Roger Taylor into orbit, with accompanying footage of Taylor orbiting the Moon, drumsticks still in hand. During the programme, Moore tries in vain to warn his past self to avoid the goose egg that gave him food poisoning in 2004 and expresses annoyance at the late time slot that the show occupies.

On 6 May 2007, a special edition of The Sky at Night was broadcast on BBC1, to commemorate the programme's 50th anniversary, with a party in Moore's garden at Selsey, attended by amateur and professional astronomers. It consisted of a retrospective of highlights from the past 654 editions of the programme, together with Moore reminiscing with guests who have appeared over the past 50 years and who have been influenced in various ways by the programme and by Moore himself. Another special edition, broadcast on BBC4 on 9 December 2007, was a retrospective of achievements in astronomical science during the past 50 years, together with a review of the highlights of "The Sky at Night" in presenting such achievements and the contributions of distinguished astronomers to the programme during those years.

In 1959 the Soviet Union used his charts of the limb regions of the Moon to correlate their first pictures of the far side with the features on the near side. In 1965, he was appointed Director of the newly constructed Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, a post he held until 1968. During the Apollo programme, Moore was a presenter of the BBC's television's coverage of the Moon landing missions. He compiled the Caldwell catalogue of astronomical objects and in 1982 asteroid 2602 Moore was named in his honour.

Moore has written over 70 books on astronomy, all of them typed on a Woodstock typewriter of 1908 vintage, which he has always preferred to any more modern device. After the BBC withdrew financial support, he independently produced a 50th anniversary DVD of his life and work entitled The Astronomical Patrick Moore.

Sir Patrick Moore celebrated the record breaking 700th episode of The Sky at Night at his home in Sussex on 6 March 2011. He presented with the help of special guests Professor Brian Cox, impressionist and amateur astronomer Jon Culshaw and Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal. In the show, Culshaw impersonated Moore and asked the 'real' Moore questions from viewers.

Activism[edit | edit source]

Moore is noted for his conservative political views. In the 1970s, he was Chairman of the anti-immigration United Country Party, a position he held until the party was absorbed by the New Britain Party in 1980. He then joined the Conservative Party and later the United Kingdom Independence Party, becoming a long standing supporter and patron of the eurosceptic party.[4] Moore introduced the DVD Britain on the Brink, a documentary which, he asserted, exposed the 'truth' that had been hidden from British people about being a member state in the European Union. He opposed the Iraq War, stating:

Mr Bush’s venture into Iraq could have instead paid for the entire space programme for quite a few years... I think Bush is certifiable. He’s a danger. If we are not careful he’ll plunge the world into a Third World War. He’s power-drunk you see. If he goes for Iran or North Korea, big trouble! What’s the difference between Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein? Mugabe doesn’t produce oil![5]

He is an opponent of fox hunting.[6] He has been a lifelong animal lover, actively supporting many animal welfare charities (recognisably, the Cats Protection League). He has a particular affinity for cats and has two of them.

Other interests and popular culture[edit | edit source]

Aside from presenting The Sky at Night show, Moore has appeared in a number of other television and radio shows, including Just a Minute and, from 1992 until 1998, playing the role of Gamesmaster in the television show of the same name: a character who professed to know everything there is to know about video gaming. He would issue video game challenges and answer questions on cheats and tips presented in the Consoletation Zone. His appearance differed depending on the show's season (e.g. in Season 1, he was an artificial intelligence whereas in Season 5, set in Heaven, he looked like a god).

He also appeared in self-parodying roles, in several episodes of The Goodies and on the Morecambe and Wise show. He had a minor role in the fourth radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and a lead role in the Radio 1 sci-fi BBC/20th Century Fox radio play, Independence Day UK in which amongst other things, Moore fills in as a Navigator in a dogfighting RAF Tornado and a pilot utters the line: "Either I'm concussed or I'm watching Patrick Moore fighting with an Extra-terrestrial, now there's something you don't see every day". He also appeared in It's a Celebrity Knockout, Blankety Blank and Face the Music. He has appeared on television at least once in a film prop spacesuit. Despite believing that there may well be life in other parts of the universe, he has stated that he believes that there has not been any real contact with aliens and he dismisses all theories of the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs. In 2010 a recording of an amateur science fiction film featuring Patrick Moore was discovered, more than 50 years after it was filmed in the grounds of an Irish country estate. The film, entitled "Them and the Thing" was the work of aristocrat Desmond Leslie, a UFOlogist and amateur film-maker who was friends with Moore.[7] In 2004, he made an appearance on Big Brother's fifth UK series, as part of a task where housemates had to identify a celebrity Big Brother voice, only using yes or no questions. He was correctly identified by the housemate.[8]

Until being forced to give up owing to arthritis, Moore was a keen musician and accomplished xylophone player. He has composed a substantial corpus of works, including two operettas. Sir Patrick has also had a ballet entitled 'Lyra's Dream' written to his music. Devised by Beryl Phelps and choreographed by Richard Slaughter it received its world première in Salisbury, attended by Sir Patrick, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. He occasionally performed novelty turns at the Royal Variety Performance and appeared in a song-and-dance act in the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas special. In 1998, as a guest on Have I Got News For You, he accompanied the show's closing theme tune on the xylophone and as a pianist, he once accompanied Albert Einstein playing The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns on the violin (of which no recording was made). Moore is listed by the Internet Movie Database as the uncredited musical consultant on the 1968 Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C Clarke 2001: A Space Odyssey. Patrick Moore was also the subject of a popular internet cartoon entitled "Patrick Moore Plays the Xylophone", which appears on Weebl's Stuff.

He is a friend of Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, who is an occasional guest on The Sky At Night. The pair have co-authored a book with Chris Lintott, entitled Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, produced by Canopus Books and published by Carlton Books. Moore has just completed (with Robin Rees and Iain Nicolson) his uniquely comprehensive Patrick Moore's Data Book of Astronomy for Cambridge University Press (publication February 2011) and, with May, Lintott, and Rees is working on the successor to Bang!, Cosmic Tourist which will be produced by Canopus and published by Carlton.

His books are mostly non-fiction dealing with astronomy, along with several science fiction novels. His first novels were a series about the first arrivals on Mars, including Mission to Mars and The Voices of Mars, followed in 1977 by the start of the Scott Saunders Space Adventure series, aimed primarily at a younger audience, which eventually ran to six novels. In addition he wrote Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them under the pseudonym R. T. Fishall, which was published by Sidgwick & Jackson in 1981. In 1986 he was identified as the co-author of a book published in 1954 called Flying Saucer from Mars, attributed to Cedric Allingham, which was intended as a practical joke on UFO believers.[9] Moore has never admitted his involvement. Yet despìte Moore's hostility to "pseudoscientific" beliefs, and his authorship of a book parodying them (Countdown!) BBC TV presenter Bill Turnbull was clearly greatly surprised when Moore, in his eighties, refused to dismiss crop circles as hoaxes. He observed, "Well at least the crop circles are there! I´m not entirely certain what they are."

In January 1998, part of Moore's observatory at his home in Selsey was destroyed by a tornado which passed through the area. The observatory was subsequently rebuilt.[10]

Along with many other celebrities, Patrick Moore has been the subject of crank-calls by comedian Jon Culshaw, as part of the BBC Radio 4 show Dead Ringers. On this occasion, Jon Culshaw impersonated Tom Baker's role of the Fourth Doctor (Doctor Who), supposedly consulting Moore on various astronomy-related matters. Moore, being aware of what was going on, confused Culshaw by out-playing him in his use of technobabble, resulting in a rare pause from the comedian as he tried to think of a response and even broke character by laughing a little after being 'gazumped'.

Moore later portrayed himself in an episode of Doctor Who entitled The Eleventh Hour.

Moore was also an enthusiastic amateur cricketer, playing for the Selsey Cricket Club until he was well into his seventies.[11] He also played for the Lord's Taverners, a cricketing charity team, as a bowler with an unorthodox action.

Moore also stars (via video clip) in the cult musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.

Because of his long-running television career and eccentric demeanour, Moore is widely recognised and has become a popular public figure, even to people with no interest in astronomy. In 1976, this was used to good effect for an April Fool's spoof on BBC Radio 2, when Moore announced that at 9.47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur: Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment which would reduce the Earth's own gravity. Moore informed listeners that if they could jump at the exact moment that this event occurred, they would experience a temporary floating sensation. The BBC received many telephone calls from listeners alleging that they actually experienced the sensation.

Moore joined the Flat Earth Society as an ironic joke.[12]

On 7 March 2006, he was hospitalized and fitted with a pacemaker because of a cardiac abnormality.[13]

In May 2007, Moore appeared on the BBC2 programme Room 101. In an interview with Radio Times, he provocatively asserted that the BBC was being "ruined by women", commenting that:

"The trouble is that the BBC now is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn’t have had that in the golden days.”

In response, a BBC spokeswoman described Moore as being one of TV's best-loved figures and remarked that his "forthright" views were "what we all love about him".[14]

Honours and appointments[edit | edit source]

In 1945, Moore was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1968, he was appointed OBE and promoted to CBE in 1988. In 2001, he was knighted for "services to the popularisation of science and to broadcasting".[15] In the same year, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society. In June 2002, he was appointed as Hon. Vice President of the Society for the History of Astronomy. He has also won a BAFTA for services to television.

A keen amateur chess player, Moore often carries a pocket set around with him and has been honoured with the title of Vice President of Sussex Junior Chess Association.[16] In 2003, he presented Sussex Junior David Howell with the best young chess player award on Carlton TV's Britain's Brilliant Prodigies show.

He has been honoured by numerous astronomical organisations both national and international.

Books[edit | edit source]

Patrick Moore has written a large number of popular books. Including:

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ Daily Telegraph – 21 August 1981, pg 21, "Xy-Moore-phone"
  2. ^ "Why Patrick Moore is married to the Moon". This is London article. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  3. ^ Moore, Gertrude L. (1974), Mrs Moore In Space, Cassell and Co Ltd, ISBN 0 304 29426 8
  4. ^ "UKIP Dorset Party Patrons Page". Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-08. 
  5. ^ "Interviews: Patrick Moore". b3ta. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  6. ^ Patrick Moore: Campaign against Fox Hunting
  7. ^ "Sir Patrick Moore's Irish UFO film identified". BBC News. 16 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Celebrity task completed". Digital Spy. 24 July 2004. 
  9. ^ Allan, C. and Campbell, S. Flying Saucer from Moore's?, Magonia v. 23 (July 1986): 15-18
  10. ^ "Town picks up the pieces after tornado". BBC News website. 9 January 1998. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  11. ^ Byrnes, Sholto (28 February 2005). "Patrick Moore: Life on Earth". The Independent (London). Retrieved 13 October 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Flat Earth and its Advocates: A List of References". Library of Congress Science Reference Guides. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  13. ^ "Pacemaker for Sir Patrick Moore - March 8, 2006". Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  14. ^ The BBC is being ruined by women, says Patrick Moore, Adam Sherwin, Times Online, 8 May 2007.
  15. ^ "2001 New Year's Honours List on". BBC News. 30 December 2000. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  16. ^ Herbert Scarry. "Sussex v. Ireland Junior Match 2002". The Irish Chess Union. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 

External links[edit | edit source]

NAME Moore, Patrick
DATE OF BIRTH 4 March 1923
PLACE OF BIRTH Pinner, Middlesex, England

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