Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March 4: Sir Alfred Patrick Caldwell-Moore

Sir Alfred Patrick Caldwell-Moore
b. March 4, 1923

Patrick Moore, CBE, HonFRS, FRAS, is an English 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. 

Sir Patrick 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, presenter of the longest running television series (with the same original presenter), The Sky at Night on the BBC and a famous figure on British television. He is well known for his rapid mode of speech, trademark monocle, poorly fitting blazers, extremely high trouser line and a fondness for the xylophone.

Sir Patrick is also an accomplished composer. He is entirely self-taught in music. His favourite genres include 19th century Viennese waltzes and marches, but he has also turned to ragtime, polkas, and a nocturne. In 1981 he played a xylophone solo in a Royal Command Performance.

He developed an interest in astronomy at the age of six and was elected to the British Astronomical Association at the age of 11. Moore eventually set up home at Selsey in Sussex, where 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.

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.

Patrick Moore has undertaken significant research in astronomy. In 1959, the Soviet Union used his charts of the moon to correlate their first pictures of the far side with his mapped features on the near side and he was involved in the lunar mapping used by the NASA Apollo space missions. In 1965, he was appointed Director of the newly-constructed Armagh Planetarium, a post he held until 1968. During the Apollo program, 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 titled 'The Astronomical Patrick Moore'.

In 1945, Moore was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1968, he was appointed OBE and advanced to CBE in 1988. In 2001, he was knighted as a Knight Bachelor "for services to the popularisation of science and to broadcasting". 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.

During a podcast of The Ricky Gervais Show in 2006, he was chosen by Karl Pilkington as one of six people who ought to re-start and educate human life on an imaginary uninhabited planet.

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