Science’s mercurial maverick has finally passed away after a 50+ year battle with ALS, writes Dylan O’Neill
On Wednesday, March 14, it was announced by the children of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking that he had sadly passed away aged 76.
A joint statement was released on Wednesday by his three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
Hawking, who passed away age 76, had long outlived a disease for which he was initially given just three years to live. At 22, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS, which is a motor neuron disease that impairs one’s ability to control muscles.
However, such was Hawking’s determination that he viewed it more as an advantage, rather than a hindrance. In a 2011 interview with the The Guardian he said: “I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first”.
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
Many tributes have poured in for the A Brief History of Time author, with friend and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson leading the cavalry, stating on twitter that Hawking’s death had left an “intellectual vacuum” in his absence.
“A truly extraordinary man,” said Roger Penrose, fellow physicist and co-author with Hawking on a 1970 paper exploring the realm of black holes. Inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, also praised his “colossal mind and wonderful spirit” in the wake of his death.
Although Hawking became renowned for his work in the field of science, specifically exploring the relativity of black holes and thus earning the title of Hawking Radiation which showed that radiation could in fact be emitted from black holes, the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was widely known in other spheres for his tremendous wit and cleverness. In an excerpt from a Discovery Channel documentary produced with him, Hawking famously hosted a party for time travelers.
“I have experimental evidence that time travel is not possible,” remarked Hawking in 2012, recounting the event. “I gave a party for time-travelers, but I didn’t send out the invitations until after the party. I sat there a long time, but no one came.” The best-selling author, ironically of a book of which was seldom read according to a recent YouGov poll – 4% admitted they had actually read the whole of the book – expressed disappointment in the 2009 documentary, saying it was “a shame” nobody showed up, before showcasing his legendary wit. “I was hoping a future Miss Universe was going to step through the door,” he later joked.
Hawking’s popularity in contemporary culture also led to a recurring role on the CBS hit-show, The Big Bang Theory, as well as being the focus of the 2014 film, The Theory of Everything, in which actor Eddie Redmayne, portraying Hawking, won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at the 2015 Oscars.