On 14th of March 2018, Stephen Hawking, aged 76, passed away peacefully in his home in the early hours of the morning. His death has been received with much sadness, and many are keen to pay tribute to one of the most influential and well-known scientists of our time. So now let’s look at a brief history of the life of Stephen Hawking.
He grew up in London and achieved a first-class degree in physics from Oxford; he then attended Cambridge University to study cosmology. At 21, he was sadly diagnosed with motor neurone disease; however before this he was a keen horse rider and rower. A year after being diagnosed, doctors told him he had only a few months left to live, but the disease progressed slowly and he was able to marry his wife, Jane, with whom he had 3 children. They divorced after just over 20 years and Hawking married his nurse, Elaine Mason in 1995, they were together for 11 years. He amazed doctors by living for so long with what should have been a fatal disease, but it wasn’t easy. He was entirely dependent on support from others, and in 1985, he experienced severe pneumonia which resulted in him having to communicate with an electronic voice synthesiser.
Without a doubt, he was one of the most famous scientists of our time and his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’ became a best-seller, with over 10 million copies sold in 35 different languages worldwide. Hawking was determined that his ideas and findings would be widely available, and wanted to make it so anyone could understand. In his book, he talks about the concept of space and time, and addresses the structure, origin, development and future of the universe, all in a manner that an unscientific mind could understand. He wrote ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’ as a sequel in 2001. Furthermore, he took part in projects to find alien life.
Not only was Hawking a pioneering scientist, he also had a somewhat celebrity status and was represented several times in film and television. He has been portrayed in The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, Futurama and Star Trek. His voice has been used on one of Pink Floyd’s albums and has been portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in the 2014 film of his life, ‘The Theory of Everything’.
It cannot be argued that Stephen Hawking was a hugely influential figure, and his ideas will still be important in science for many years to come; the many portrayals of him across the media go to show how much of a popular celebrated figure he will be. Following his death, thousands more tributes are sure to be payed to this hugely inspirational man who gave so much to science.