At the age of sixteen years Eric founded the Manchester Interplanetary Society with its
headquarters at his home in June 1936. Eric subsequently linked with Kenneth Gatland to
form the Combined British Astronautical Societies. Ken Gatland, Arthur C Clarke, Phil Cleator
and Eric worked together to forge a national society and decided that the name ‘British
Interplanetary Society’ should be used to provide continuity back to 1934. They also made
contact with Len Carter. Len and Eric were both qualified in company law and worked
together with the aim of registering the B.I.S. as a company limited by guarantee to which end
Eric Burgess was a signatory to the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
By midsummer 1944, Eric Burgess and Ken Gatland had completely restructured the
C.B.A.S. and B.I.S. members; P.E.Cleator, A.C.Clarke and R.A.Smith, together with officials
acting for the C.B.A.S., circulated a policy document, which contained plans for the founding
of a postwar interplanetary society. Later, in the same year, Burgess and Arthur Clarke met
one rainy day at Warwick Castle, mid-way between their respective RAF bases, to discuss
plans to start a national astronautical society.
On 25 September 1945, a special joint meeting of the B.I.S. and C.B.A.S. was called in
London to wind up the old societies and transfer all interests, assets, etc. to the new BIS Ltd.
Eric Burgess was the first to sign the new member’s register and he became its first Chairman
of Council for the first post-war session, 1945-1946.
Eric wrote about the Pioneer program of space missions since the first tests in 1957.
He is credited with the original idea that the Pioneer probes should carry a message for
extraterrestrial intelligences. He approached Carl Sagan about his idea, which eventually
resulted in the Pioneer plaque.