If you’re ever on the internet searching for theories on the fields of cosmology, general relativity and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes, you’ve probably already heard: Stephen Hawking. He was almost certainly the world’s most recognizable brilliant scientist, and one of the most famous of all time. Hawking is famously known for his genius mind on equations and abstract but what makes him a stand out among other great mind is that he is also able to explain these concepts to everyone in clear, engaging prose even though they do not have a background in science.
Hawking was diagnosed with the motor neurone disease ALS in 1963 when he was 21. Given just a few years to live, he ended up thriving for decades, proving many of his doctors’ calculation wrong. While the disease took its toll on the scientist’s body, his brilliant mind remained sharpened till the very end. His wheelchair and computerized voice became a kind of signature, a man who enjoyed being featured in pop culture as much as the academy.
Hawking symbolized scientific achievement and the vast potential of the human mind. His life inspired many upcoming scientists and also everyone who is interested to pursue their studies in science. The world mourns his death, not because of black holes and physics, but rather the impact that he brought to the understanding of science and physics to be specific and the potential of our mental abilities to study the universe and understand even just a piece of it.
As Stephen Hawking once said “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
In his article “Handicapped People and Science,” Science Digest 92, No. 9, September 1984, Hawking penned these words on disabilities :
“If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well. In my opinion, one should concentrate on activities in which one’s physical disability will not present a serious handicap. I am afraid that Olympic Games for the disabled do not appeal to me, but it is easy for me to say that because I never liked athletics anyway. On the other hand, science is a very good area for disabled people because it goes on mainly in the mind. Of course, most kinds of experimental work are probably ruled out for most such people, but theoretical work is almost ideal.”
On his disabilities he wrote: “My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in. I have managed, however, only because of the large amount of help I have received from my wife, children, colleagues and students. I find that people in general are very ready to help, but you should encourage them to feel that their efforts to aid you are worthwhile by doing as well as you possibly can.”
“We just haven’t lost a great mind but also a great inspiration and a great mind but through the days he lived and the research he has done, our lives have been better, we understand better now and as the saying go, ” Gone, but never forgotten.”
Thank you, Stephen Hawking.