Wednesday March 14 – An incredibly sad day for astrophysics, the entire scientific community and, for that matter, all of humanity. A living legend has passed away.
You may recall from a previous post of mine that I mentioned my fascination and appreciation for two particular astrophysicists who have been able to bring complex scientific phenomena to the people — Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Dr. Stephen Hawking should have been added to that list. Sadly, he has passed away at the age of 76 — still productive in his work to his final days. He had just submitted a revised work, co-authored with Dr. Thomas Hertog, on how we might prove that our existence lies within a multi-verse not a singular universe.
I have a hard enough time trying to comprehend the enormity of just one universe. But here’s Stephen Hawking trying to find a way to prove that we, in all likelihood, live within an infinite number of universes. To me he was living proof that there was a scientific genius among us.
What makes Dr. Hawking remarkable was the fact that he was THIS brilliant, THIS scientifically determined, THIS focused — despite his enormous physical limitation caused by ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
Dr. Hawking was diagnosed in 1963 at the age of 21 with a disease that systematically robbed him of his voluntary muscle control. He was told that he likely only had 2 years to live. In the end, some 55 years later, he had lost control of all voluntary muscles except his one cheek muscle. And by using that cheek muscle to communicate with a computer, he continued to share his amazing cognitive abilities with the outside world.
His scientific accomplishments are too numerous to mention here. Since his passing, the internet has been abuzz with others who have summarized and eulogized his scientific greatness. But that is not the point of this particular blog. My goal with this particular post is simply to say ‘thank you’.
Thank you, Stephen Hawking
Thank you for bringing us further along our journey of understanding of who we are in this reality. Thank you broadening our horizon of what we can consider possible about our existence in this vast cosmos. But, my biggest thank you is for showing us that no matter what our lot in life, no matter what potential limitations we are saddled with, we can use what we are given to make a difference. You could have easily drifted away after your ALS diagnosis, but instead you carried on with your science … your drive … your life’s quest. You used your gift for the betterment of us — all while following your passion.
In 2014, a movie was made about Dr. Hawking’s life called “The Theory of Everything”. It told us about the personal side of this great mind — showing us that he also struggled like the rest of us with things like love and the acceptance of his medical condition. It was a great account of both his personal and professional life.
Here’s the movie trailer to give you a preview if you haven’t seen it:
Stephen Hawking will be missed for more than his brilliant scientific contributions. I will miss him as an inspiration for what is possible. How he showed us through a simple cheek muscle not only what may lie in the enormity of space and time, but what we are all possible of accomplishing.
RIP Stephen Hawking
1942 – 2018