Stephen Hawking Passes Away at 76
Renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking passed away in his home in Cambridge, England on March 14th. He was 76 years old, having lived a long life of revolutionary accomplishments in the fields of physics and cosmology. In response to his death, messages of admiration upon Hawking’s life and achievements for science have flooded social media, bringing his incredible story to the internet for all to read.
Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8th, 1942. As a student of the University of Cambridge in 1963, he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The illness paralyzed Hawking, leaving him motion in only a few fingers, and also took away his voice. He relied on a voice synthesizer for speech and a wheelchair for transportation. Doctors initially gave the 21-year-old Hawking no more than a few years to live, depending on how quickly the disease progressed. Incredibly, Hawking went on to live 55 years with the disease, becoming one of the longest survivors of ALS and developing theories about our universe along the way.
Perhaps the most famous of these theories is that of Hawking radiation; in 1974, Hawking outlined a theory that black holes radiate energy as they gradually lose mass and energy. Hawking also created theories about the beginning of the universe alongside those about the attributes of black holes. These include showing that if there was a Big Bang from which the universe was created, it would’ve had to start from an infinitely small point known as a singularity; predicting the existence of miniature black holes during the time of the Big Bang; and that when the universe was in its singularity stage, it was so incredibly tiny that it didn’t even have true boundaries of time and space, meaning that the concept of an origin of the universe itself kind of just… vanishes.
In addition to expressing his ideas to the scientific world through lectures and papers, Hawking also put his theories into books accessible to even normal people who aren’t in the field of theoretical physics or cosmology. These include New York Times Bestsellers The Grand Design (co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow), A Brief History of Time, and The Universe in a Nutshell. Hawking’s most famous book, A Brief History of Time, has risen in bestseller lists following news of his passing.
In the wake of his death, celebrities, world leaders, and fellow scientists have posted messages of sadness and admiration for the late physicist. Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in the movie The Theory of Everything, which dramatised Hawking’s life, stated, “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, said, “A star just went out in the cosmos. We have lost an amazing human being,” on Twitter in response to Hawking’s death being announced.