Ordinary Meeting, 2004 December 18

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Ordinary Meeting, 2004 December 18

held at The English Heritage Lecture Theatre, 23 Savile Row, Piccadilly, London W1

Tom Boles, President

Ron Johnson, Nick Hewitt and Nick James, Secretaries

The President opened the third Meeting of the 115th session, and invited Dr Nick Hewitt to read the minutes of the November Meeting, which were duly approved. Mr Boles announced that the names of 25 candidates for election to membership would be displayed in the Association's library, and the 24 candidates proposed at the previous meeting, finding the approval of the audience, were declared elected. The President invited any newcomers to introduce themselves to him later. Mr Nick James, papers secretary, announced that ??? papers had been accepted for Journal publication:

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It was announced that the next meeting would be on January 26 at the Geological Society, Burlington House, when the main speaker would be Dr David Boyd, speaking on Clocking a Spinning White Dwarf, followed by contributions by Martin Taylor, Peter Wise and Nick James. The President also wished to remind members of the forthcoming Back to Basics course, to be held in Chichester on January 29.

Before proceeding to the afternoon's talks, Mr Boles remarked that the meeting was taking place in the month of a significant historical anniversary, for at the meeting of 1934 October 28, seventy years previously, a bright youth, 11½ years of age, had been elected a member of the Association. At the time, this must have seemed no special occasion, but with time that bright youth was to work up through the ranks of the Association. He was to become the author of many books and a TV presenter. He would become famous around the globe. The youth was, of course, Sir Patrick Moore, and the President scarcely had to inform members of his presence at the Meeting, for few could have failed to notice the applause which had erupted some minutes earlier, upon his entry to the lecture theatre.

Almost exactly 20 years ago, Sir Patrick had held the Presidency of the Association; he had also held posts as Director of the Lunar and Venus sections at various times. In total, he had been a member of Council for no less than 40 years. He had been a prolific writer of papers for the Journal over the years: the President had to confess to having stopped counting at 200, though there were doubtless many more still. The first, on the subject of lunar craters, had been written at the age of a mere fourteen, and though it was so long ago, the President supposed a first paper was always one to be remembered. Perhaps his greatest contribution of all was through the interface he provided between the Association and the media. His popularisation of astronomy had brought in numerous youngsters, and Mr Boles remarked that it was a common observation that even many now-professional astronomers admitted that they had first been inspired into the field by Sir Patrick's work.

On behalf of the Officers, Council and Members of the Association, in recognition of all his many contributions, the President offered Sir Patrick his warmest congratulations on his 70th anniversary. In view of his lifelong passion for the observation of the Moon and planets, no gift seemed a more fitting memento than a brass-orrery, which, to great applause, Mr Boles presented to Sir Patrick.

Rising to his feet, with apologies that his mobility was not what it once was, Sir Patrick thanked all for this reception: the orrery would, he assured members, be a treasured possession. He remembered well the day, 70 years before, when he had, as an 11½-year-old, had to walk forward to shake hands with the then-President of the Association, and, incidentally, also then-Astronomer-Royal, Harold Spencer Jones. Reminiscing of some of the past members he had known over those 70-years, and some of the lighter moments he had shared with them, he remarked that the Association remained unchanged. Astronomy had moved on, but the Association had always moved with it. He always thought it important to remember that the Association was, above all else, the observers, and that through their work, it had played a tremendous part in astronomy, both in the UK and abroad, building up a great deal of interest in the field. He described the BAA as a cornerstone to astronomy, and he greatly regretted that it seemed unlikely to him that he would be able to attend any further London meetings. Finally, Sir Patrick wished to thank all for the kind invitation to such a reception in recognition of his anniversary. His speech was followed by prolonged applause, after which the President returned his own thanks to Sir Patrick for his very great effort to travel up from his Selsey home to attend the afternoon's meeting.

Mr Boles then proceeded to introduce the afternoon's first speaker, Prof David Hughes, who would be delivering the 2004 Christmas Lecture. Prof Hughes presently headed up a planetary sciences group at the University of Sheffield specialising in cometary research, and the President remarked that a casual search for his publications had brought up no less than 320 papers bearing his name. Given his active interest in the Rosetta mission, Mr Boles supposed he would be kept busy until at least 2014, waiting for the return of data.

Fairfield

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