The Legacy of Stephen Hawking

Briony O’Neill -

It has been over a month since renowned theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge. While his family said that he died peacefully, the world has not yet gotten over the passing of such a prominent scientific figure. For the past 30 years, Hawking was considered to be the world’s greatest living scientist, a true shining light for scientific community, and a man that defied the odds in every single aspect of his life.

Scientist, Mathematician and Author

Hawkins was a brilliant scientist as well as an astronomer, a cosmologist, a mathematician and an author of multiple best sellers. His first major breakthrough book entitled “A Brief History of Time” went on to sell more than 10 million copies, and can still be found on the shelves today. Most notably though, Hawkins, along with fellow physicist Roger Penrose, was able to merge Einstein’s original theory of relatively with quantum theory. The results of which suggest that while time and space began with the Big Bang, it would end with Black Holes. It may sound like the topic of a space themed slots game or Sci Fi movie, but it’s a scientific discovery that Hawking was instrumental in uncovering.

Stephen Hawking had a fascination with Black Holes, and published a book about the phenomenon. He discovered that Black Holes actually emit small amounts of radiation and would disappear over time.

Hawking and ALS

Briony O’Neill -

Away from his scientific exploits, Hawking was suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This is a neurodegenerative disease that is usually fatal within a few years of diagnosis. Hawking was initially diagnosed in 1963 and was told by doctors he only had one or two years to live. The disease took over his entire body, rendering him almost entirely paralysed, save for a few fingers on one hand.

He became reliant of helpers and technology for everything, including eating, bathing, dressing and talking. He used a now-famous speech synthesizer, which allowed him to talk in a computerised voice. In his personal live, Hawking was married twice. His first wife, Jane Wilde he met in college and married when he was still a student. They were together for 30 years before divorcing in 1995.

After splitting with his wife, Hawking later married one of his former nurses, Alane Mason and they were together for 11 years. He leaves behind three children and three grandchildren.

Major Scientific Achievements

Hawking achieved many amazing feats in his life, both personally and for the scientific community. At Cambridge University, he held the prestigious position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Sir Isaac Newton, who is also considered to be one of the greatest scientists in modern history, held this same post. Hawking held the post for a total of 30 years until 2009, when he stepped down.

Later that year, he became the director of research at the Institute for Theoretical Cosmology. A year later, he co-authored the scientific best seller "The Grand Design" with Leonard Mlodinow. After release of the book, he was quoted as saying that science is able to explain the universe without the need for a creator.

Hawking as a Cultural Icon

Outside of the scientific world, Hawking became a hero for science and math geeks, as well as a prominent pop-culture figure. He guest starred as himself on the Simpsons, Star Trek and the Big Bang Theory. In 2014, a Hollywood movie was made about his life entitled “The Theory of Everything”. During his scientific career, he was awarded no less than 12 honorary degrees as well as the prestigious CBE award in 1982. This is a major British honour, and is just one step below the rank of knighthood.

Such was his influence on the international community that despite being a British citizen, Hawking was awarded the US presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama. This is the highest civilian honour award given out by the United States and proves just what an international icon he had become. His legacy lives on n his books and his theories and he’ll surely be remembered for decades, or even centuries, to come.

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