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Patrick was the last of a generation, a true gentleman, the most generous that I ever knew; an inspiration to thousands in his personal life and to millions through his 50 years of unique broadcasting.
It's no exaggeration to say that Patrick, in his tireless and ebullient communication of the magic of astronomy, inspired every British astronomer, amateur and professional, for half a century. Most astronomers I know will tell you Patrick is the reason they first looked through a telescope.
Through his countless books and articles and TV appearances, he captured the adventure of the universe and brought it to us. He knew the universe in a way that will never be equalled. He did not just know the facts, it was as if he lived out there and knew it like the back of his hand.
To the end of his life he was distilling new discoveries into channels which made them not just accessible to astronomers but also understandable to the general public – a rare gift, which he never tired of using to the full.
In his private life Patrick was astoundingly giving. His dedication to young aspiring astronomers was legendary. He replied to every letter, responded to questions, helped students with gifts of equipment and the most precious gift of all – his time. He personally tutored some he thought particularly promising, and sponsored others through higher education; he gave away any income he made to the point where he had no security himself except that which his friends supplied
Patrick was the reason I took up astronomy as a kid, but it was on a trip to the northern tip of Scotland to witness an annular eclipse – a rare sight – that he turned my life around again.
We sat down for a snack outdoors, and he said: "We must write a book together – the Complete History of the Universe." I said: " Really I don't think I am capable – I have been in a different world for so long. Maybe I can help you edit it?" He said: "Nonsense! You are going to co-author it and you're going to go back and get your PhD too!" Well, it all came true. We wrote Bang! The Complete History of the Universe together with Chris Lintott and I finished off my PhD thesis at Imperial College. Patrick had once again brought me face to face with the universe.