Published on March 14th, 2018 | by Sarah Jubb
Science Loses A Star, Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76
Both the scientific world and society as a whole has experienced a tragic loss with the confirmed report that Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. One of the most influential and most respected scientists of our era, Hawking saw his appeal stretch not only to the world of science but also to general society as well.
Born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, Stephen William Hawking attended Oxford University and received a first-class degree in physics. He then went on to study at Cambridge University and received a postgraduate research degree in cosmology.
It was during his time at Cambridge that he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the young age of 21 and given a short life expectancy of only a few years. Despite this, he went on to live over half a century longer, defying the odds.
The Most Popular Book That Was Never Read
Hawking was a well-respected scientist in his field during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly with his work on theories of black holes. His ‘theory of everything’ became popular, in which Hawking argued that everything in the universe actually evolves according to laws that are well-defined.
In 1974, he was elected to the Royal Society at the very young age of 32 and soon became the Cambridge Lucasian professor of mathematics. This position is often regarded as one of the most prestigious in the world and has previously been held by hugely influential mathematicians such as Isaac Newton, who formulated the laws of motion, Paul Dirac, one of the most influential physicist to work on quantum mechanics, and many more.
But for the general population, it was the publication of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time that propelled him from the stardom of science to a worldwide icon. Originally published in 1988, it was aimed at those who were not familiar with science and became in an incredibly popular novel, selling over 10 million copies and even being translated into many other languages.
Due to its science content, despite being written for anyone to read, it was often dubbed the most popular book in history that was never read.
Stephen Hawking – A Pop Culture Icon
Thanks to his breakthrough novel, Hawking became entwined in the popular consciousness with appearances in the long running, and incredibly popular, television show The Simpsons along with a brief cameo alongside Einstein and Newton playing poker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In more modern television shows, he made a cameo appearance on scientific comedy The Big Bang Theory.
His own life became a subject of media attention with various films and documentaries, perhaps the most famous being the recent Hollywood film The Theory of Everything which gained Eddie Redmayne an Academy Award for portraying him.
Hawking will be remembered as a Great Briton not only for his contributions to science and his incredible intellect but also because of his sharp sense of humour and his willingness to embrace popular culture.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder 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.” – Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018)