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SIr Patrick Moore, 1923 - 2012

Sir Patrick Moore, who hosted "The Sky at Night" in England and influenced millions of people in their love of astronomy, has died.

He was a controversial figure, beloved for his science promotion, but who also made comments that were pretty objectionable. In my opinion, it is not only fair but also necessary to praise the achievements of the recently deceased as well as point out their flaws so that we may learn from them. 

Here is my obituary for Sir Patrick: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2012/12/09/sir_patrick_moore_death_of_controversial_astronomy_and_science_promoter.html

[Note: After thinking about it, I still stand by the idea of talking about people, warts and all. I do know that there are grieving people, though, and due consideration should be made to them. I changed the phrasing of this post just a bit to soften it, and I apologize for the words I used that may have been too harsh.]
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58 comments
 
Hosted The Sky at Night in the UK. It's more than just England, you know?
 
A fair obit. RIP an inspiration and an intellectual giant. You're correct to say he wasn't "racist", but sadly we're already see the kneejerk reaction of the prickocracy who don't know the difference between immigration and race. 

For example, this comment on another thread describing Moore as a "Little Englander racist member of UKIP and a thoroughly nauseating excuse for a human being".

I can take a good guess at the type of person who'd write that about Moore; probably a poorly-travelled "social sciences" lecturer at a failing former poly, mean bony fingers poring through the pages of the Guardian muttering about racism against Muslims, happy to boycott Israeli dates and Starbucks (but not Apple products of course!) inspiring no-one but churning out a generation of welfare-dependent "victims". 

I wonder if he achieved anything close to that which "nauseating excuse for a human being" Moore did?

Moore lied about his age in order to join the RAF and fight in World War II at the age of sixteen, and from 1940 until 1945 he served as a navigator in RAF Bomber Command, reaching the rank of Flight lieutenant

After the war, Moore rejected a government grant to study at Cambridge University, citing a wish to "stand on my own two feet".

In 1945, Moore was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society; in 1977 he was awarded the Society's Jackson-Gwilt Medal. In 1968, he was appointed OBE and promoted to CBE in 1988. In 1999 Moore became the Honorary President of the East Sussex Astronomical Society, a position which he held until his death. In 2001, he was knighted for "services to the popularisation of science and to broadcasting". In the same year, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society, the only amateur astronomer ever to achieve this distinction. In June 2002, he was appointed as Hon. Vice President of the Society for the History of Astronomy. Also in 2002, Buzz Aldrin presented Moore a BAFTA for services to television. He was also a patron of Torquay Boys' Grammar School in South Devon.

He was also opposed to the Iraq War and blood sports. 

Forget to copy and paste all those others did you? The day someone who calls a polymath like Moore a "thoroughly nauseating excuse for a human being" can claim to have not only fought for their country but inspired thousands of children to point telescopes skyward and discover hundreds of new planets then I'll listen to them. But until that time they can shut up and show some respect.

Sadly, I also give it about 12 hours before the "other" accusations start appearing. After all, he looked a bit funny, and ALL monocle wearers are paedophiles, right?

"I saw him on the telly once, and I knew there was something wrong and ever since then I felt so abused. Not that I bothered to tell anyone at the time but...."

Besides, he enjoyed looking at Uranus - what more "proof" is needed for trial by tabloid and hysterical uneducated morons?

Let's hope not. Once again, RIP Big Fella.
 
Having grown up in the U.K. until 1980 I can understand a lot of his views.  I don't have to agree with them but I can point out that he was a product of his environment just like we all are.  Let's concentrate on this mans fantastic achievements instead of being petty and making comments without the knowing the full context.  He counted one of the Wright brothers AND Neil Armstrong as close personal friends.  I'd say that says more than anything.
 
You forgot to mention that he fought in the World War.
 
Also he was not born in 2003. 
 
Words fail me... he was barking, but an amazing man who did so much for astronomy.
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nice spiteful article...well done - you clearly enjoyed that
 
Oh dear very poor form in my opinion +Philip Plait how small his flaws against the shadow of his achievements. How small you look in his shadow you self righteous fool. Tut tut.
 
Didn't seem spiteful at all, quite balanced in fact!  "Like any human, though, his personal story is a little more complex. While he was a tireless promoter of science, he also made statements that were misogynistic, homophobic, and, if not racist, then at least xenophobic. This will of course give people, at the very least, mixed feelings on his death."   That was measured and the rest was respectful
 
A hell of a lot of people aged 60+ (never mind 80+!) will be unintentionally racist/homophobic because they grew up in a completely different era with different values.

Also, why wait until the man is dead to be spiteful? Publish it when he's alive. So many people seem to be publishing nasty stuff about people, but only after they die. Quite sickening really.
 
I'm pushing 60 myself and I can assure you that I have never thought of immigrants as "parasites". 
 
There is always this 'Don't speak ill of the dead' hush you now thing. It seems superstitious and artificial. I will speak as I may, whether they breathe or not. And though there is a tendency to weigh a person's good deeds against the bad . . . The two are not mutually exclusive and we must be fair. If he was an asshole in his personal life . . . Then so be it.
 
I do see what you mean with the 'don't speak ill of the dead', but I'm from the way of thinking that if you can't say something to someone's face (or when they're alive) then don't wait until they're dead to say it.

But then... I suppose dead men can't sue...  ;)
 
+Steven G Wow, what a complete fail in that typo! I fixed it, thanks.

As for those complaining about my tone being spiteful, I think you are reading far more into my words than is there. Read the last paragraph of my post again. I respect the good Sir Patrick did, as I can also point out  his failings. He was a public figure and an influential one, so it's important we take him as a whole and not gloss over things we might find uncomfortable.
 
I don't he could sue as the things said were well documented as coming from his own mouth!
 
People bashing when there dead has become a bit of natural pastime amongst the interneters/blogers  these days  . At least he wasn't scared to tell you to your face what he thought off you . Sure he had some strange views ,but he did bare witness to the worst that people can do to each other. 
 
Ignore my posts. Karl says it better than me...
 
Inspiring bloke. Only listened to him talking about astronomy and he was great. 
 
Yes in his field he was a brilliant man.
 
It was just brought to my attention.. He was definitely not 9 when he died.. 2003-2012
 
Sir Patrick Moore:
“I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching.”

I absolutely do not share some of his opinions and believes but i did laugh my ass out when i read this. It's kinda legen... Wait for it... :)
 
+Philip Plait Indeed. Your article may well show that you know very little or nothing about him but, if nothing else, you can at least learn the lesson that it is important to get the very basic details correct.
 
Can’t quite understand how to praise a racist, who wished death to all German people.
 
+Christoph Anton Mitterer I take it you have empirical proof to back up these comments? How mean-spirited do you have to be to use an obituary to say things like this? Even if your comments were true (ALL German people?) then common decency and manners would suggest this is neither the time, nor the place. May I suggest you read +Jonathan H 's post more carefully than you may have done previous to posting your odious words? Thank-you.
 
This man and "The Sky at Night" were a huge influence on me growing up.  His enthusiasm is and was a  cornerstone of my love of science.

Frankly I never paid much attention to his political views, and I'm glad I didn't.  Scientists can be a strange, eccentric bunch...sometimes in good ways (Richard Feynman) and sometimes bad.  Not to excuse the bad, but so long as the science remains paramount, we're better off in the long run.

Thanks for letting me find out from you, Phil.
 
+Christoph Anton Mitterer Ah, Wikipedia, the source of All Truth! And Ronnie Haslehurst wrote "Reach" for S-Club 7, yeah? I see some views I disagree with, and I see tales of a guy who fought in a war for his country and opposed war in Iraq.
And a man who disagreed with capital punishment. And a man who turned down privilege. And a man who inspired countless people to look up, learn and contribute the the greater knowledge of the human race, and a better understanding of the universe we live in.

Inspired generations to aspire to greater things through understanding the mechanism and science of the universe.

And your contribution is to call him a racist.
 
+Philip Plait I think that you may not have meant it to but your obituary came across as a little spiteful. Patrick was a victim of the age he was born into just as we all are. It is inevitable that some of his views will appear anachronistic in this day and age but that shouldn't detract from his achievement's. You would have been a better man had you just not referred to his, somewhat, eccentric and unimportant political views.
 
Wow Phil I have nothing but respect for you but your remarks are way off the mark. As someone who grew up , not in England or Britain btw, with Sir Patrick as hugely positive influence I cannot remember ever hearing him say anything seriously off colour or unacceptable.

He was a very much larger than life figure and yes in some ways a product of a very different time and culture but he always good for a laugh, never one to take himself too seriously. I don't know the context of some of the quotes you have extracted but think you may a victim of that gulf between the US and Britain that  GB  Shaw described as being divided by a common language.
 
 
+Steven G So? Many people of that generation were racist (or, at best, jingoist). It's a fact, and a facet of his personality.
 
+Mirosław Baran He didn't like immigration, and disliked Germans. That doesn't make him a racist. 
 
Sorry, that's just PC bullshit at its worst, and you should be ashamed for raising it now, Plait. The guy was from a completely different generation with pretty different values, and I bet everyone knows someone from that era who has "controversial views" - to pillory him for them without taking context into account is ridiculous, particularly when they did no harm whatsoever. Sir Patrick was a huge, positive influence on a lot of Brits and will be remembered fondly by us, and I don't think anyone really cared about what his other views were except the kneejerk media, which apparently includes yourself. Shame on you.
 
+Steven G he didn't like immigrants and hated Germans; that pretty much makes him a racist. Mind, I don't judge him too harshly – he was an old man set in his ways and a child of failing empire.
 
+Mirosław Baran He fought on world war 2; saw many friends and comrades killed. That short of thing is bound to warp your views and outlook.
 
+Mirosław Baran There is a difference between politically opposing immigration and disliking immigrants. As for Germans, he fought in WWII. No one cares whether you or anyone else judges him. You are merely here to glean molecules of attention towards yourself by leeching off what is currently a popular topic however what you don't know, in your blissful ignorance, is
+Philip Plait was once snubbed by Sir Patrick, many years ago, and clearly still holds a grudge.
As a Scotsman I would be first to call out an Englishman as a racist, or a supremacist. That is something that would be quite impossible for me to say about Sir Patrick Moore.
 
Well, that rather settles the issue of him not being a jingoist.
 
+Steven G calling immigrants parasites is rather telling, isn't it?

Also, don't try to play the WW2 game with me, for I have much better hand than you.
 
+Mirosław Baran No, we have some respect for the dead, get some perspective, and remember that they grew up in different times and with different values. Anyone would think the man was a frothing racist, woman-hating nutjob. He wasn't in the slightest - it's just that some folks insist on making a bigger deal out of things he said than they actually are. Yes, he was anachronistic in his views and also rather eccentric - and he had his reasons for both. He was also completely harmless about it.

And frankly, nobody's really in a position to judge him for it. I bet everyone from that era has said or done or believed things that people nowadays would consider 'unacceptable'. I bet a lot of people KNOW people from that era who say or do or believe those things and they don't bat an eyelid about it and just say "oh, he's an old man" or whatever. But I guess because it's a stranger, and someone in the public eye, suddenly that blind spot goes away and people feel like they can be all high and mighty about it. I don't necessarily agree with his other views, I just don't think they're relevant for remembering who he was or what he did, particularly on the day that he died.

Either way, he was far greater man than anyone here, and certainly a far better science educator than Phil Plait. Maybe Phil could stand to learn a few things from him instead of raking his name through the mud.
 
Ironically, I only just discovered his show in the past three years, but I can see how it must have appealed to the enthusiast these past decades. Sad to see him go. I hope someone else picks up the torch.
 
+Mirosław Baran my grandfather hated Germans too. Not everyone of that generation had the strength to forgive. My grandfather also witnessed mass immigration changing the country he fought for. Changing it in a way he didn't like. You do not get the right to call him on what are his outdated beliefs, he earned the right to be as politically incorrect as he wanted. Sir Patrick was made of the same stuff as my grandfather and with some resonance and compassion and understanding you would not be so quick to judge this generation. There is not a person around who is celbrating his outdated beliefs people will celebrate the great things he did and forgive him and his generation their faults. They earnt that right.
 
He will be very sadly missed by me.  I watched his show every week when I lived in England, and I still have his book on Astronomy which I bought when I was 12 (1969).  His TV presence during each of the Apollo missions was always informative and accurate, and he was quite a character.
 
Oh how sad. I'm certain that he was responsible for inspiring a love of astronomy in millions of people. 
 
My grandparents were older than he was, and for the most part (my grandfather was a fan of women in their place) they weren't homophobic, xenophobic, racist, or generally crotchety. Being born of a certain time is a poor excuse, especially as one lives through newer times.
 
Sir Patrick was an old coot (think granpa Simpson, but with a monocle!) and his politics are as relevant as any old coots. But his BBC show, Sky At Night, was the best astronomy show on TV, bar none. It may have miniscule budget compared to US shows, but it is leagues ahead in presenting the actual science. There's no dumbing down and catering to short attention spans with flashy graphics, catastrophes and explosions. It was a joy to watch and I was really looking forward to each months episode.

I'm sorry Sir Patrick is gone, but I'll be devastated if Sky At Night goes too. 
 
+Mary Mactavish It matters not what your grandparent's were like; my grandparent's were of the same generation had, to a degree, similar views to Patrick. They are not "racist" or "homaphobic" nor were they "xenophobic" by their reckoning. They were people from a different era that had been brought up with different ideals and had lived through one of the most turbulent periods of our history. Both he, and them, had been shaped by their experiences. My grandfather was also a combatant in World War 2 and said that he could never forget what the Germans had done. Does this make him a " bad man"? Of code not; just human.
 
Why oh why was it suddenly not possible to view "Sky at Night" online in the USA some four or five years ago?  Old coot crumudgeon, old Limey, regreting the lost empire, well whaddya expect!  They guy was an Englishman.  I really enjoyed watching that show, and I was very disappointed to get cut-off from it.  We have nothing like it in the USA, and no one like Sir Patrick to present it.
 
The more I think about this mean spirited obituary the more disappointed I am with Phil for posting it.

The Guardian have a nice obit which deals with the difficulties Phil chooses to emphasise in a fair and balanced manner:

 (though he)... alienated many leftwingers, he was too patently against human or animal suffering and too scatter-gun in his beliefs to make such critics more than mildly uncomfortable. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/dec/09/sir-patrick-moore
 
+Steven G - do tell us more about this incident where Sir Patrick "snubbed" Phil Plait. It might help to explain Plait's pettiness here.
 
He was a truly great man who inspired literally generations of people. Yes he had some old fashioned views, but so do a lot of people his age, - they're a product of their time. (As we are of ours). Such minor blemishes should in no way damage the astonishing amount of great work he did in the promotion of science and rational thought.

Fortunately the BBC are actually on something of a roll with their science programming of late. We've had a long run of excellent science shows, ranging from light and accessible (such as the excellent Science Club on BBC 2) to much deeper stuff on physics and biology on BBC 4. 
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the beeb does the best popular science shows by a mile. They always manage to find terrific working academics to front them - alice roberts, brian cox, Michael  Mosley, Jim Al-Khalili, Marcus du Sautoy just to name a few. Plus they have the best science show ever in the history of everness. ..Horizon. Its why i never complain about the licence fee (well, out loud) Thank goodness we dont have to rely on Discovery for our TV science in the UK. Channel 4 done some decent stuff too, but its a little less consistent in quality of information
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