Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sir Patrick Moore (1923—2012)

Moore was perhaps the last in the great British tradition of significant contributions to science by distinguished amateurs, and was fiercely proud of his amateur status.

I wonder what academic bureaucrats of today would make of Sir Patrick Moore’ CV if he ever applied for professorship. Moore never went to the university (he famously refused a government grant to study at Cambridge), let alone wrote a Ph.D. thesis. So what. Dennis Barker wrote in The Guardian:

With one exception after his teaching days — his directorship of Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland (1965—68) — Moore was never an employee.
Even better.

I first learned about Moore from Англия, a British magazine published (in Russian) in Soviet times. I remember the black and white photo of him by the grand piano, the caption saying that Moore is an accomplished musician possessing perfect pitch. Back then, I thought he was some sort of English eccentric. Many years later, I saw him on the BBC. Yes he was an archetypal English eccentric all right, and amazingly brilliant at that. He joined the RAF during World War II; he met Yuri Gagarin and appeared in Doctor Who. He was the world’s longest-serving TV presenter — and, briefly, the finance minister for the Monster Raving Loony Party. According to Wikipedia, “as a pianist, he once accompanied Albert Einstein playing The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns on the violin”. He wrote hundreds of books, including the one called Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them. So I think his application would not be successful.

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