“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
These words of the renowned physicist and one of the greatest ambassadors of science reaches out to people of all faiths and ideologies to overcome the limitations posed by self and urge them be inquisitive. Born on 8th January 1942 to Frank and Isobel Hawking, the would be award-winning physicist was known as “Einstein” in his school though not being an outright child prodigy. But with time he began to gather accolades receiving his first scholarship in 1959 to attend University College, Oxford to study Natural Science. Mr. Hawking then started his graduate research in cosmology at Trinity Hall, Cambridge Universty in 1962, but a year later he was diagnosed with the degenerative nerve disorder ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease at a mere age of 21. He was informed that he had two years more to live and as the disease progressed with it came difficulty in mobility and communication, but time saw the doctors’ estimation becoming unfounded.
On being encouraged by his supervisor Dennis William Sciama, Mr. Hawking returned back to his graduate research work, thereby developing a reputation for brilliance and brashness. In 1974, he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific body at the age of 32, becoming one of the youngest people to receive the honour. After that, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge in 1979, a position once held by Issac Newton, Charles Babbage and was there until his retirement in 2009.
From a field such as that of cosmology and theoretical physics, only a few emerge with a recognition at par with a celebrity athlete or actor and Stephen Hawking’s name is the most prominent among them, with his groundbreaking work on black holes and relativity. Even with a body carrying a disease which was supposed to have killed him 40 years ago, Mr. Hawking went on with the aid of a synthesizer which ran a speech program and authored “A Brief History of Time“, a best seller for 237 weeks on the London Sunday Times.
Conveying all his ideas via a small sensor which was activated by a muscle of his cheek, using it to type characters and numbers on his keyboard Mr. Hawking became the person known beyond the science fraternity, bringing the attention of the general mass to his work on Black holes and the radiations they emit which was considered to be against the norm of quantum physics at that time. Though a man holding 13 honorary degrees including CBE(1982), Companion of Honour(1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom(2009), Stephen Hawking would be remembered as a lively and witty person with his one of the quotes being “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny”.
Though on this day, 3/14/2018 Stephen Hawking finally left the world, his work and legacy will continue to be inspiration and research work for many to follow his lead. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world and will continue to do so.
“I don’t believe that the ultimate theory will come by steady work along existing lines. We need something new. We can’t predict what that will be or when we will find it because if we knew that, we would have found it already!”