by Graham Pierrepoint
Celebrated physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who authored several leading books and papers on time, space, and everything in between, has this week passed away at the age of 76. The British-born scientist is survived by three children – and both his ability and vision with regard to the wider universe around us are only the tip of the iceberg as to how incredible and fascinating – his enduring presence was. Professor Hawking has been a staple of popular science for decades – and overcame enormous odds early on in his life to become one of the most celebrated and revered physicists of his time. His book, A Brief History of Time, will continue to be referred to as some of the closest, most succinct answers we have as to why life and the cosmos exists at all.
Hawking was given only years to live following his diagnosis of motor neurone disease – this was when he was 22 years old – and in the years since then, the scientist defied all odds to persist in the pursuit of a long life dedicated to the exploration of cosmology. The professor spent most of his life confined to a wheelchair – with a voice box to communicate with – all the while never letting his condition get in the way of his exploration of theoretical physics and his work with some of the biggest names in the field. Hawking is responsible for allowing us to understand mysterious elements in our universe such as black holes – their relation to energy – and space and time itself. His landmark and most enduring work, the aforementioned A Brief History of Time, is already seeing a resurgence in popularity in commemoration of the scientist’s passing.
Tributes have been pouring in for Hawking from all corners of the globe and from science to entertainment – as the Professor had made several guest appearances on US TV and had not been a stranger to being in front of the camera. His life was portrayed in film most recently by Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, with the actor being one of many who came out in tribute following news of Hawking having passed away.
Hawking’s story is one which is inspiring and remarkable in equal measure – his passing will have immense ripples for some time to come – and we can be thankful that he has left behind a fundamental legacy of work and research that has put us one step closer to understanding the universe around us.