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Patrick Moore

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Sir Patrick at home.
It's not rocket science, it's...
The Final Frontier
The abyss stares back
Not to be confused with Patrick Moore, the founder-turned-critic of Greenpeace.
I'm only a four-dimensional creature. Haven't got a clue how to visualise infinity. Even Einstein hadn't. I know because I asked him.

Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore (4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012) was an English astronomer, professional eccentric and hendecasyllabic science populariser, perhaps best known for being the presenter of the monthly BBC TV series The Sky At Night (on which his cat(s) sometimes appeared) for over 55 years since it first aired in April 1957. Unlike many scientists, he was noted for having a sense of humour.

His astronomical work was widely respected, particularly his lunar mapping, and he worked as a consultant with both the American and Soviet space programmes. Amongst the people he met were Orville Wright, Albert Einstein, Yuri Gagarin and other cosmonauts, and Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and other American astronauts. Thus he was one of the few people, perhaps the only person, to have met the first man to fly an aeroplane, the first in space, and the first on the Moon.

He was also a good friend of Brian May (a fellow astronomer and frequent guest on The Sky At Night) from the band Queen, despite hating rock music for some reason.[1]

Early life[edit]

Little is known of Moore's early life. He grew up with heart problems, and was often bedridden in childhood. As a child, Moore was given membership of a local astronomical society, which sparked his lifelong passion for the subject.

During World War II, he lied about his age, and his health, and entered the Royal Air Force. During this period, his fiancée, Lorna, was killed in a German bombing raid. This scarred him for the rest of his life, and perhaps accounts for some of his political attitudes, such as his feelings about the European Union, particularly his strong anti-German sentiments.[2][3]

In the post-war period, however, Moore really began to flourish. In the 1950s, he was given the job of host of the BBC's The Sky at Night. His Lunar Atlas, published in 1953, was so good that NASA was using it in 1969, and even the Soviet Union made use of it for their moon projects.[4]


"I'm sure there must be life elsewhere, We're on an ordinary planet, going round an ordinary star. There's no need to suppose we are unique. We're not."

Moore appears to have once written a book under the pseudonym Cedric Allingham, claiming to have had a conversation with some Martians. The book turned out to be a hoax; Moore was a passionate opponent of UFO enthusiasts, and his book was an attempt to parody their best-known source material at the time - the works of George Adamski, and his curious ilk.[5][6] He also devoted one episode of his programme to an epic takedown of the Moon landing hoax.[7] Despite this trouncing of the gullible, he was no unwavering supporter of scientific consensus, being one of the last holdouts for the view that the Moon has active volcanoes — very much a minority view in astronomical circles. He also once predicted the arrival of humans on the Moon in 1980, making him one of many experts in the field to be out by a few years.

Moore sometimes referred to himself as a "free-lance thinker."[8] One way to annoy him was to refer to him as an astrologer: as he once said to a Singapore audience, "Astronomy is an exact science… Astrology is superstition."[8]

One Pair of Eyes[edit]

In 1969, he made a one-off special for the BBC, called One Pair of Eyes, featuring what Moore called "independent thinkers". These included a man from the Aetherius Society who claimed to be able to speak Venusian and Plutonian and another man who thought that the Moon was made out of phosphorus and the Sun was cold.

Hobbies and non-astronomical interests[edit]

He had a preference for using imperial measurements for everyday use, and before illness made it too difficult to do so, used a typewriter rather than a computer. He was a mean xylophone player[9] and claimed to have perfect pitch. He was also a keen amateur cricketer and chess player.

Not averse to parody or send-up, he appeared on various British comedy shows including Morecambe and Wise. He also had cameos in various other programmes including Doctor Who.

In the late 70s he was a member of a minor political party, the United Country Party, one of whose policies was opposition to immigration.[10] Later he was involved with UKIP. Earlier he had been involved with the British Liberal Party.

He was strongly against fox hunting, cruelty to animals and capital punishment and also helped raise money for victims of the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami with his good friend, Arthur C. Clarke, resident of Sri Lanka.

Moore could also be... odd, and sometimes it is difficult to see whether what he was saying was a genuine belief, or trying to rub people up the wrong way. Despite being anti-EU, he knew enough French to translate books from its language, and despite his apparent wingnut politics, he had many friends in the scientific community of the Soviet Union. And despite accusations (and well-deserved ones) of being a rampant sexist, he once replied to a letter from a young Heather Couper that being a girl was no impediment to becoming an astronomer. And despite making a controversial statement about AIDS, he was also a friend of Brian May's, who famously helped organise a massive AIDS awareness concert in 1991.[1]

Moore also wrote a few science fiction novels.

Quotes, including both the good and the awful[edit]

  • On astronomy - "Grab a pair of binos, go outside, and learn your way around the sky."
  • On Brian Cox (astrophysicist, not the actor) - "I've met him, he's been on my show and I've been on his. No competition there at all. He's not an astronomer, he's a particle physicist."
  • On extraterrestrial life - "In our galaxy there are a hundred, thousand, million stars, many of them with planets, and we can see a thousand million galaxies and that's only a tiny fraction, so there must be life. If a flying saucer landed in my garden and a green man came out, I'd offer him a tea or coffee and try to get him straight into the television studio."
  • On whether he'd ever seen evidence of aliens - "No, and nor has anyone else.’
  • On Europe - "We must take care, there may be another war. The Germans will try again, given another chance. A Kraut is a Kraut is a Kraut. The Germans tried to conquer us. The French betrayed us. The Belgians did very little and the Italians made us our ice cream. The English are best. Stand up for England!"
    • "The only good Kraut is a dead Kraut. There may be some good Germans, but I haven't met any."
  • On Arthur C. Clarke - "He was ahead of his time in so many ways. Quite apart from artificial satellites there were other things too. A great science fiction writer, a very good scientist, a great prophet and a very dear friend, I'm very, very sad that he's gone."
  • On the "feminisation" of the BBC - "The trouble is 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. I would like to see two independent wavelengths - one controlled by women, and one for us, controlled by men."
  • On science fiction - "I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC - making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching."
  • On his more reactionary views - "I may be accused of being a dinosaur, but I would remind you that dinosaurs ruled the Earth for a very long time."[note 1]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Insert extinction joke here.