This morning the world woke up to the aggrieved news that one of sciences iconic minds had sadly passed at the age of 76! Stephen Hawking was an inspiration for so many people, not just because he was one of the most intelligent minds that ever lived, but because he had the fight and determination to outlive his deadly disease.
Diagnosed with a very rare form of motor neurone disease at the young age of 21, medical professionals said Hawking would only live for another 2 years. However it’s because the condition was so rare that the disease was slow progressing, meaning Hawking went on to live for half a century. As an independent individual, after he was diagnosed in 1963 he needed the support of crutches to go about his daily activities, and when that became too much he finally gave in to the wheelchair, yet this would not dampen his spirits. Known for his wild wheel chair driving around Cambridge, taking it for the odd spin at a few college parties Hawking was determined to live his life in the present, and be thankful for what he had.
In his career Hawking made many astonishing discoveries with his first scientific breakthrough in 1970, when he and a colleague named Roger Penrose discovered the manifestation of ‘The Big Bang’. Through his fortitude to find “a complete understanding to the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all”, that when he and Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the universe, they found an area of infinitive curvature in space-time from the past. Hawking went on to further research the ideology around black holes using quantum theory. From here he made many more radical acclamations over the years which were both favourable and also controversial in the eyes of others in the field. Either way, because of the science he unveiled he was seen as a modern cosmology wizard.
However it wasn’t all just hard work and no play, as despite his progressive disease Hawking married his college beau just two years after he was diagnosed in 1963. Jane Wilde was the love of Stephen’s life and went on to release a book about their time together in 2013 – ‘Travelling to Infinite – My life with Stephen’. Unfortunately little did they know that their happiness together was slowly approaching a sell by date. In 1985 Hawking was flown back to Cambridge from a visit to Cern, after he contracted a life threatening infection, which through a complicated tracheotomy operation, sadly lead to the loss of his speech. As Jane spent years dealing with the daily struggles of being Stephen’s primary carer whilst raising their three children, the couple eventually separated in 1991 after Jane claimed their marriage was more like “master and slave”, rather than the loving marriage they once had. Hawking did in fact marry again four years later to a nurse that was his around the clock carer. This time the marriage lasted only 11 years and at one point his wife Elaine Mason, was under scrutiny that she had been assaulting Hawking in several scenarios. Failing to cooperate with the police Hawking left them no other choice then to drop the investigation.
Through his lifetime Hawking obtained many awards for his discoveries, ranging from the Albert Einstein Award to the Fundamental Physics Prize, yet one award was always slightly out of reach – The Nobel Prize. He made national appearances, lectured the White House during Bill Clinton’s presidential reign, and furthered his worldwide presence with appearances in the family cartoon program The Simpsons, and E4’s scientific comedy series The Big Bang Theory.
Whilst he was never crowned the greatest physicist of our time he truly was a legend in the field of modern cosmology, and will forever remain an iconic being in scientific history. His famous quotes will live on to persistently inspire others, and while it’s been sad to see his departure, his legacy will remain very much alive in his three children, and grandchildren that he leaves behind.