TONIGHT THE WORLD MOURNS THE LOSS OF WORLD RENOWNED THEORETICAL PHYSICIST WHO DIED TOMORROW AT THE AGE OF 76.
In what is seemingly a strange and bizarre twist of fate that surely Stephen Hawking the Professor would find amusingly ironic, the iconic theoretical physicist has passed away today in the U.K. where, for us here in the United States, it is actually tomorrow.
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, it has just been announced on the newswire died Wednesday due to the progressive complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, He was 76 years old.
Born on Jan. 8, 1942 in war-torn Oxford, England, to Frank, and Isobel Hawking on the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo. Stephen and his three younger siblings grew up in the town of St. Albans, just north of London.
Professor Hawking will best be remembered for his work on black holes in space. Flying in the face of the popular scientific beliefs of the day that held black holes were inescapable to all forms of energy and matter, Professor Hawking theorized that black holes actually emitted their own form of radiation which is now known by the name of Hawking Radiation. He also played a vital role in the scientific effort of mathematicians to unify Einstein’s general theory of relativity with the fledgling science of quantum physics.
He gained public prominence in 1988 by publishing his first book for laymen titled, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. To date, the volume has sold as many as 10 million copies worldwide.
He was just 21 years old in 1963 when he was first diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Although Professor Hawking’s doctors gave him little more than two years to live at the time, Hawking went on to survive for another 52 years past his given expiration date and quite likely he outlived the doctors who gave him that prognosis in 1963.
Longer perhaps, than any other ALS patient in the recorded history of the disease. Professor Hawking spent most of his remaining years using a motorized wheelchair to move around, and a sophisticated computer system to speak for him when he could no longer do so for himself.
At the St. Albans School, Hawking was an indifferent student. Nonetheless; he was admitted at the age of 17 to his father’s alma mater, University College at Oxford University, in 1959. While he rarely attended lectures and has been quoted as saying that he spent no more than 1,000 hours studying during his three years at Oxford. Just about an hour a day, his innate brilliance began shining through during his time as an undergraduate student. After graduating from Oxford with first honors Hawking enrolled in graduate school at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1962, where he studied under physicist Dennis Sciama and the world-renowned astronomer Fred Hoyle. He became interested in the budding study of black holes and singularities, the existence of which was implied by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
While studying at Cambridge, Hawking met Jane Wilde, a fellow native of St. Albans who was a student at Westfield College in London. Before they began dating, Hawking collapsed while ice skating and was unable to get up. His mother took him to the doctor, who diagnosed him with ALS and told Hawking that he had just over two years more to live.
On his 70th birthday, at a symposium at Cambridge, Hawking reflected on how much he struggled to stay motivated after his diagnosis. Why work so hard when he would most likely be dead in two years? He replied; “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” he said. “Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
After receiving his doctorate in cosmology, Hawking stayed at Cambridge to continue studying the structure of the universe. In 1968, Hawking took a post at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge. Over the next decade, Professor Hawking published a number of brilliant papers on cosmology and theoretical physics making him somewhat of a celebrity within the scientific community.
He was just 32 years old when he was named a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society. He briefly taught at the California Institute of Technology before accepting the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post that was once held by Sir Isaac Newton.
Though Hawking’s family life flourished during this time his health did not. He first started using a wheelchair in 1969, and by the mid-1970s, he could no longer feed or clothe himself.
In 1985, he contracted pneumonia while in Switzerland. Doctors there performed a tracheotomy which allowed him to breathe but left him unable to speak At first, he communicated using word cards, but in 1986, computer scientist, Walter Woltosz gave him a device that would vocalize words he would type out by using a joystick. Hawking called this system “The Computer.” Its well known electronic voice was a large part of his public persona.
In 2011, Hawking reflected on the origins of the universe and rejected the likelihood of both a God and an afterlife which he once dismissed as being nothing more than “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
“Only in confronting the finite nature of death,” he said, “do we appreciate the remarkable beauty of life in the present.”
“There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either,” Hawking said. “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Whether one believes that the Professor is right in his assessment or one believes that he was wrong still he was right just the same. This is a paradoxical element which is one key to quantum physics.
Regardless of what one shall choose to believe you only get one go around in this life. Make every second count. Stephen Hawking who lived my own number of years beyond his time to die embodied this principle. Now that he is dead he lives on out there amongst his beloved stars, now he knows the truth of physics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Life is what matters, and thus being composed wholly of matter, life thus = energy which has a half-life of infinity squared as energy can be neither created nor destroyed. You cannot explain it because it simply is. Just as it always was and always shall it be, and Bob’s your Uncle.
Professor Stephen Hawking is survived by his two former wives, three children, and three grandchildren.