Stephen W. Hawking, one of the brightest minds since Albert Einstein, passed away last Wednesday at the age of 76.
The Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author, was not merely a scientist, celebrity, or philosopher. Hawking became a figure of popular culture. He was a symbol of humanity’s drive to overcome any limitation.
Hawking’s scientific and cultural impact cannot be overstated. Alan Burdick of the New Yorker called Hawking a “living metaphor for the scientific endeavor.” The Atlantic’s Helene Mialet described Hawking as an “iconic genius” who was “a master at thinking.”
In 1963, then a graduate student, Steven William Hawking began noticing symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. At the age of 22, Hawking was given only a few years to live. The neuromuscular disease slowly took most of his motor functions, leaving only his brilliant mind. Hawking was forced to use an electric wheelchair as means of transportation and a computer interface with a digital voice as communication.
“A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” the publication that put Hawking on the map back in 1988, has sold more than 10 million copies. He was also featured in an academy award winning movie, Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne.
In a 1984 paper, Hawking hypothesized that under quantum mechanics matter could escape a black hole. That theoretical matter was later called Hawking radiation.
Hawking has made countless television cameos including playing cards with Einstein, Newton, and Data as part of a Holodeck simulation on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He also made appearances on “The Simpsons,” “Futurama,” and “The Big Bang Theory.”
A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Hawking was a father of three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim. “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” they wrote in an official statement. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”
Hawking provided countless memorable quotes throughout his life. One interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2010 stands out the most. He gave this advice on how to live life. “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.❞