Dr. Stephen W. Hawking died at the age of 76. Born in Oxford, England, on Jan. 8, 1942 — 300 years to the day, he liked to point out, after the death of Galileo, who had begun the study of gravity, he returned to stardust on 14 March 2018, a day referred to in modern pop culture as “Pi Day”, celebrating the mathematical formula of the number Pi.
Hawking got his undergrad degree at Hastings College in Oxford UK. After barely graduating with the required qualifications to continue in his further education, he went on to get his Doctorate at the University of Cambridge he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in general relativity and cosmology. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live, but surpassed the assumptions about his health, and the preconceived notions about what a person with disabilities can accomplish. He believed in his statement of “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”
Hawking pioneered concepts in cosmology, theoretical physics, and quantum physics. His research and experiments completely upturned the commonly held assumptions about space, the universe, and the beginnings of both. Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes. He became his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them. He also helped advance the ideas of String Theory, and that of Black Holes farther than he imagined.
Hawking wrote or co-authored a number of books, including “A Brief History of Time” (perhaps one of the most widely read non-textbook science books), “The Universe in a Nutshell”, “A Briefer History of Time”, and several children’s books, authored with his daughter Lucy. He also received dozens upon dozens of science awards and honors, and has an annual award, the “Stephen Hawking Award for Science Communication”, which honors members of the arts community for contributions that help build awareness of science.
His fellow scientists have given some wondrous quotes about Dr Hawking, some including: “Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised the scientist for his “determination to explain the mysteries of the cosmos” and his “burning passion to protect our National Health Service.” Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote: “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.”
Hawking is survived by his former wives Jane Wilde and Elaine Mason, as well as his three children, Robert, Lucy, and Timothy, and three grandchildren.
And for something that will help you remember Dr Hawking with a chuckle and smile, here is a recording of him singing the Monty Python “Galaxy Song”
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