Prof. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), the world famous scientist, passed away early this morning at the age of 76. Hawking, arguably one of the best-known physicists in the world, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1963 and was given only a few years to live. The fact that he made it over 50 years alone is impressive, not to mention his long list of accomplishments.
The New York Times reports: “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, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview.
Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris.
He went on to become 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 was a man who pushed the limits — in his intellectual life, to be sure, but also in his professional and personal lives. He traveled the globe to scientific meetings, visiting every continent, including Antarctica; wrote best-selling books about his work; married twice; fathered three children; and was not above appearing on “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or “The Big Bang Theory.”
I’m a liberal arts major who can barely count without using my fingers, so I’m about as far away from a scientist as anyone can be. However, I have seen a couple documentaries about black holes and Hawking’s research and I always found them fascinating. It’s safe to say that, even if I don’t completely understand all that this guy actually did, the world has lost a very important person.