In the news: Patrick Moore

May 18, 2001

Honours are cascading on Sir Patrick Moore, who this week picked up an honorary fellowship of the Royal Society and a special award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta).

Sir Patrick, who was knighted in the New Year's honours list four months ago, was described by the Royal Society as "the most effective and influential writer and speaker about astronomy in the United Kingdom". He has presented the BBC programme The Sky at Night since its launch in 1957 and has written more than 60 books.

Sadly, the awards coincide with a waning of 78-year-old Sir Patrick's health. His spine has crumbled, affecting his right hand and preventing him from enjoying his two great loves - making astronomical observations and playing the piano.

Sir Patrick was disabled overnight late last year. He had just completed a wedding march he was composing for a friend. After playing it through, he closed the piano lid and has never played again.

An only child, Sir Patrick was prevented from attending school by illness. He caught the astronomy bug as a six-year-old after reading George F. Chambers's 1898 Guide to the Solar System and soon had his own telescope. At the age of 11, he became a member of the British Astronomical Association. Two years later, it accepted a paper he had written on small craters in the moon.

His infirmity did not prevent him from joining the Royal Air Force at 17 after the outbreak of the second world war. Sir Patrick flew as a navigator with Bomber Command on terrifying night raids over Germany. His fiancee was killed in the Blitz. The war also prevented him from going to the University of Cambridge.

After the war, he helped run a school before becoming a freelance author in 1952. Sir Patrick is known for his "ultra-patriotic" views.

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