With a heavy heart, the world said it’s goodbyes to Stephen Hawking recently. The Oxford born scientist challenged misconceptions about disability, made incredible breakthroughs in the field of cosmology and even found time to make appearances in The Simpsons.
Stephen Hawking’s Famous Sense Of Humour
Although this has changed in recent times, the traditional image of scientists was dry, humourless individuals who failed to engage with public audiences. Not so for Professor Hawking who was famous for his quick wit.
During a talk at the Sydney Opera House, someone posed a question to the Professor regarding the ‘cosmological effect of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction’ to which he responded
“Finally, a question about something important. My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics. Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction. This girl may like to note that in another possible universe she and Zayn are happily married.”
The following quote perhaps perfectly sums up the good nature and quick wit of Professor Hawking
“The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognised. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away”
The professor would go on to achieve countless awards for his contribution to science. Awards such as the Albert Einstein medal (1979), the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985) and the Fonseca Prize (2008) plus many more.
The Hawking Radiation
Stephen Hawking carried out extensive research in the field of black holes, a baffling subject to most of us. As far back as 1974, the professor made the discovery of radiation emitted from black holes.
Just a few weeks after discovering the ‘Hawking radiation’, the professor was elected to the Royal Society Of London making him one of the youngest people to ever receive this honour.
One Of The Greatest Britons Ever
The professor was ranked in 10th place in a 2002 BBC poll to determine the greatest Britons.
Professor Hawking As A Champion Of Disabled People’s Rights
Throughout his life, Stephen Hawking challenged prevailing ideas and misconceptions about disability. His whole life was a testament to what can be achieved even with a severe disability. In the early 1960s, the Professor was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a condition known to us all now due to the viral ice bucket challenge videos 0f 2014 (Stephen participated in this challenge himself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8421oTenRPw). Despite being told by his doctors he would only for two more years, the professor defied his doctors and lived a rich and full life, enabling himself through his wheelchairs and the famous speech synthesiser he used to impart knowledge to the world.
In his key message to the 4th annual Jack Ashley (a deaf politician who served in the 1960s) Memorial Lecture on the 11th October 2017, the professor shared the following
“….in my third year as a student at Oxford, I noticed that I seemed to be getting clumsier. I fell over once or twice, and couldn’t understand why. I was somewhat disgruntled to be told by a doctor at the time, to lay off the beer. A year went by, and I had moved to Cambridge to undertake my PhD, but one Christmas, I went skating on the lake at Saint Albans, my home town, and I fell over again. But this time I couldn’t get up, so my mother took me to the family doctor, who referred me to hospital for tests. I was just over 21 years of age…..I learnt, years later, that I had motor neurone disease. The realization that I had an incurable disease was a bit of a shock. I felt it was unfair. How could something like this happen to me.
I had no idea what my future would turn out to be, so I returned to Cambridge, to carry on with my research in to general relativity and cosmology. While struggling with my illness, I was still able to make important advances in our understanding of the universe.”
This much loved son of Oxford not only redefined what it was to be a scientist, he challenged conventions throughput his life and did it with a smile. In loving memory.