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Patrick Moore: Lived with cats, accompanied Einstein on the piano

Much-loved stargazer and class act passes away aged 89

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A nobleman among geeks, the great stargazer Patrick Moore passed away yesterday at the age of 89. Born in 1923, the great man racked up many geek accolades in his long career of star watching, contributing to the NASA moon landings and holding the world record for the longest running TV show with the same presenter for his 55 years presenting the Sky at Night.

Moore became the monocled face of astronomy for the UK and the world. He had a whimsical sense of humour - playing the xylophone, writing books about his cats - and he preserved a immaculate dress sense in these debased times, often wearing a bow tie. There are multitudes of video clips of the great man online, but this humorous one on space snacks is a classic.

Born in Sussex, Moore's father was a soldier and his mother an artist. His site SirPatrickMoore.com recounts how young Moore got into astronomy aged six, a passion sparked by picking up his mother's 1898 copy of the "Story of the Solar System" by G. F. Chambers, and became the youngest member of the British Astronomical Association aged 11. A faulty heart kept him out of school, but not the RAF - which he joined, underage, at the start of the Second World War, ditching a place at Cambridge.

While the young Patrick was in the RAF his fiancee was killed by a bomb, and he never married or had children. His Sky at Night biography recounts:

Suffice to say that Lorna, whom I was to marry, was killed by a German bomb when we were both twenty (1943!) and so I remain, very sadly, a bachelor.

Moore lived with his mother until her death and two beloved cats - Jeannie and Ptolemy.

Sir Patrick's greatest scientific achievement was his research on the Moon, with the detailed maps of the lunar surface he helped create used to plan NASA's Apollo 11 moon landing. Young Moore was present in NASA ground control for the Apollo landing.

During his long life the great man wrote over a hundred books, all on a typewriter - a 1908 Woodstock. Moore had a lifelong interest in music, sparking at least one excitable meme with his xylophone habit and has apparently played the drums for a pop group.

In his century-spanning life, Moore met Einstein among many other towering figures. Moore described the encounter in his own words:

I could well believe that he had come from another planet. He was utterly charming to everybody.As we all know, Einstein was a talented violinist, and on this occasion he had a violin with him. Pressed to show his skill, he said that he needed an accompanist. There was a piano to hand - and so there was Einstein playing Saint-Saens' Swan to my accompaniment. O for a tape! (If there were any tapes in 1940!)

We know many Reg readers will join us in raising a final pint to the departing titan. ®

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