A Giant of Science Has Passed Away, Joining the Infinite and Eternal
Dr. Stephen Hawking is dead.
He was one of the greatest scientific minds of our time, and of all time. Now, at 76, he has died, leaving behind a legacy that is matched only by renowned people of science like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, and more.
He leaves behind others, like Dr. Mae Jemison and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, to carry on his legacy.
❝Without imperfection, you or I would not exist❞ — On Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, Discovery Channel, 2010
Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21, Dr. Hawking’s initial diagnosis gave him only a couple of years to live.
He rallied, pushing on for many decades, with the aid of friends and loved ones. More than anything, it was his will to uncover the secrets of life and the universe that kept him going.
❝We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special❞ — Interview, Der Spiegel, October 1988
As his body grew weaker, his mind grew stronger.
He found synergy among numerous fields of theoretical physics: gravitation, cosmology, quantum theory, thermodynamics and even information theory.
One of his greatest theoretical predictions came to be called “Hawking radiation”, that black holes actually emit radiation into space.
With another scientist, Jim Hartle, Dr. Hawking proposed the Hartle-Hawking State model, which shows that before the Big Bang, time itself did not exist.
He published A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes in 1988, which went on to become a highly influential work of popular science.
When asked for some of his advice on life in an interview on ABC with Diane Sawyer in 2010, he said:
❝One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.❞
Dr. Hawking has his detractors in the scientific community. He is also held up by many as a premiere example of an atheist: an enemy to the faithful, a hero to those who believe in no gods.
He never saw himself as a champion for that cause, though. He was a champion for humanity as a whole.
His goals, to further human knowledge and help ensure humanity survives for many more eons in an indifferent universe, lives on in the work of people like Elon Musk and other modern entrepreneurs and engineers who are actively working to ensure our future.
Dr. Hawking was not perfect. He was as broken and troubled as the rest of us, and he overcame much of the challenges arranged against him. Ultimately, he helped enlighten humanity just a bit more.
And for that, I thank him.