Stephen Hawking was the romanticised public figure who reached out to infinity
“Hello. I am Stephen Hawking. Physicist, cosmologist, and something of a dreamer. Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.”
In the vastness of the Universe, Stephen Hawking was a star that shone brighter than others. A theoretical physicist by profession and a public icon as recognisable as any A-list actor or rockstar, Hawking was a living embodiment of mind over matter, the triumph of spirit over form, and of resilience over trying adversity, which he faced with optimism, humour and understatement.
Early days and short life expectancy
Born in Oxford on January 8, 1942, Hawking did not particularly distinguish in early academic life, and it was only while an undergraduate at Oxford, did he begin to make his mark. Despite being diagnosed in his first year as a doctoral student with incurable motor neuron disease that left him crippled and with a very short life expectancy, he did not despair.
The debilitating condition, which caught hold of him when barely out of teens, spared him mere two years to live but Hawking went on to live a productive life for a further half-century. He in fact married twice and had three children.
A Brief History of Time, The Big Bang & black holes
Hawking came to the notice of the wider public with his first book, “A Brief History of Time” (1988), in which he attempted to explain the structure, origin, development and eventual fate of the universe as well as a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang and black holes, to lay-man. In its later editions, he also discussed time travel, ruling that it was impossible for various reasons, including the law of conservation of mass. It is black holes that Hawking was most concerned with. He did pioneering work in the field, though later admitting his theory of information loss was a “blunder”, though his hypothesis that they emit radiation was data-wise correct.
A long-time NASA pal
Hawking was associated with NASA in some or the other way for a very long time. In 2007, Hawking took his first flight in microgravity from NASA’s Kennedy Spaceflight Centre. On April 21, 2008, Hawking and his daughter Lucy delivered a lecture as part of NASA’s 50th anniversary.
Speaking of the importance of human spaceflight, Hawking concluded, “If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
The first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, and an enthusiastic supporter of the many-worlds interpretation, he was also one of the scientists who did not rule out the existence of a creator, expressing his realisation the idea of a God was not incompatible with scientific theory.
An inspiration to many across the world, Stephen Hawking set out a spirit of positivity in the minds of all those whose lives he touched in some way or the other. He once said, “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus”. Through his books, lectures and movies – as well as the occasional cameo on TV – Hawking motivated people for decades to never stop learning more about the universe. And thus the quest of universe continues…
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