Astronomy educatorPatrick Moore

An amateur astronomer (and past president of the British Astronomical Society), Moore was a researcher and writer, and a radio and TV commentator on the subject. His BBC show The Sky at Night showcased his “Mad Professor” personality; he hosted it monthly starting in 1957. “At that time astronomy was regarded as an eccentric study practiced by old men with long white beards,” he said later. “The space age had not started. Sending a man to the Moon was regarded as little more than a music-hall joke.”

But it wasn’t long before the USSR and the USA started competing in space, and Moore was there to put it in perspective. Well known for his dry humor (on a visit to Utah, he was told, “Welcome to the Mormon state. We are quite different from the rest of America. You will find no swearing or drinking or wild women here.” His reply: “It’s hardly worth coming, is it?”), Moore used it to his advantage to get people to tune in, so he could teach them about space. He did it in books, too, writing more than 100 of them, and they sold in the millions. He was appointed the Order of the British Empire in 1968 (Commander in 1988), and knighted in 2001. Sir Patrick, who “did more than anyone, with the possible exception of Arthur C. Clarke, to educate the British public about astronomy and space travel,” says the London Telegraph, hosted The Sky at Night until his death, making it the longest-running program with the same presenter in TV history. He died December 9, at 89.

From This is True for 9 December 2012