Stephen Hawking, Famed Physicist Who Defied ALS Odds, Dies at 76

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By Tia Ghose

Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest minds of modern physics, has died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge, England, The Guardian reported today (March 14). He was perhaps the best-known physicist in the world, despite having to communicate via a computerized voice that recorded the minute motion of his cheek muscle.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking, the children of the physicist, said in a statement announcing his death. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

Hawking was a brilliant student of physics at the University of Cambridge when he was diagnosed with the degenerative nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 21. ALS affects the neurons that help us move our muscles, so Hawking used a wheelchair for decades and communicated via a computerized “voice.” He nevertheless continued working and soon developed a series of groundbreaking theories that would remake the world of physics. In 1966, the cosmologist published his doctoral thesis, which argued that the entire universe began as a singularity.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – He nevertheless continued working and soon developed a series of groundbreaking theories that would remake the world of physics. In 1966, the cosmologist published his doctoral thesis, which argued that the entire universe began as a singularity.

    He is undoubtedly one of the all-time giant thinkers of science, with insights into relativity, black-holes, and many other aspects of physics and life!

    We had an earlier discussion on some of his ideas about space travel and environmental issues, here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/11/stephen-hawking-just-gave-humanity-a-due-date-for-finding-another-planet/

  2. His scientific global standing is very evident!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43398187

    Scientists, politicians and actors have paid tribute to world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who has been called an “inspiration to millions”.

    The British scientist, famed for his work on black holes, died peacefully at his home in Cambridge aged 76.

    Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, one of the world’s most eminent scientists, described his life as a “triumph”.

    Others described him as a “unique individual” whose death “has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake”.

    He was known for his theories on black holes and relativity and went on to publish several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

    The University of Cambridge, where Prof Hawking completed his PhD and went on to become Lucasian Professor of Mathematics – a role once held by Sir Isaac Newton – described him as “an inspiration to millions”.

    Queues have formed at Gonville and Caius College – where Prof Hawking was a fellow for more than 50 years – to sign a book of condolence.

    Buckingham Palace said the Queen will be sending a message of condolence to Prof Hawking’s family.

    Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, broadcaster Prof Brian Cox called him “one of the greats” and said physicists in 1,000 years’ time “will still be talking about Hawking radiation”, his theory about black holes.

    British astronaut Tim Peake, who flew in space in 2016, said Prof Hawking “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.

    And the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, praised Prof Hawking’s “colossal mind and wonderful spirit”.

    Former US President Barack Obama, who Prof Hawking met in 2009 to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, tweeted a photo of them both alongside the words: “Have fun out there among the stars”.

    American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted: “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake” while George Smoot, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics, described Prof Hawking as “very competitive”.

    Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge said Prof Hawking has left “an indelible legacy”.

    Comedian Dara O’Briain, who has a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics and is also the presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, called Prof Hawking “a hero of mine”.

  3. While the despicable Trump and his sycophant Trumpies, are exercising his venom on ANOTHER FBI chief who has been investigating Russian involvement in Trump’s election, the world has lost a major contributor to human knowledge!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-43405184

    Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis has been viewed 250,000 times online since news of his death broke on Wednesday, the University of Cambridge has revealed.

    The 1966 work, “Properties of expanding universes”, was first uploaded by the university on 23 October and its popularity crashed the website.

    Since then, up to two million people have downloaded the document, with many more reading online, a spokesman said.

    He added that its popularity proved Prof Hawking’s “enduring legacy”.

    Prof Hawking wrote the 134-page dissertation as a 24-year-old postgraduate student while studying at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

    It is signed and dated 15 October 1965 – three years after he began his lifelong association with the university.

    The typed thesis, which includes Prof Hawking’s handwriting, attracted more than two million global views on the first day of its release, crashing the publications section of the university’s website.

    Dr Arthur Smith, deputy head of scholarly communication at Cambridge University Library, said the document retained a universal appeal.

    “It’s evidence of the enduring legacy of Professor Hawking that people are still interested in learning about his ideas and theories.

  4. There are funeral arrangements which in some ways give state recognition to his achievements, but they also present an unmerited association of the English Church Establishment with notable scientific achievements!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-43472054

    The ashes of Professor Stephen Hawking will be interred next to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey, it has been revealed.

    The renowned theoretical physicist’s final resting place will also be near that of Charles Darwin, who was buried there in 1882.

    Prof Hawking, who had motor neurone disease, died on 14 March, aged 76, at his home in Cambridge.

    The Dean of Westminster said the location was “entirely fitting”.

    A private funeral service will take place at Great St Mary’s, the University Church on 31 March – Easter Saturday, Prof Hawking’s family said.

    The church is close to Gonville and Caius College, where Prof Hawking had been a fellow for more than 50 years.

    Announcing funeral arrangements on the college website, Prof Hawking’s children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: “Our father lived and worked in Cambridge for over 50 years.

    “He was an integral and highly recognisable part of the university and the city.

    “For this reason, we have decided to hold his funeral in the city that he loved so much and which loved him. Our father’s life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious. So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life.”

    The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: “It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists.

    “Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside Isaac Newton in 1882.”

    Then of course there is the usual asserted “god-did-it”, nonsense from preachers – using the “ROYAL WE”, and a groundless parity claim for “faith” and science, – whenever they are are given a public platform!

    He added: “We believe it to be vital that science and religion work together to seek to answer the great questions of the mystery of life and of the universe.”

  5. Alan

    Do you mind his remains going to Westminster Abbey? Is there an alternative? I suppose if he’s going to the Abbey then there would have to be a COE service to go with it. Is that true? I wonder if Hawking left advice or instruction on the matter or is it his children who are making the decisions on their own? I was under plenty of pressure from the extended family to have a religious funeral for my father two years ago which I resisted successfully but just imagine the pressure for the kids of Hawking to have a big national traditional funeral. It must be intense. I know nothing about his children but if they are religious then it’s likely that they will sign up for a religious funeral no matter what their famous father wanted. That happens a lot.

    I’m conflicted on the burial site. I want him near Darwin and Newton and other notables from your country but that does make it difficult to kick COE to the curb!

  6. LaurieB #5
    Mar 20, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Do you mind his remains going to Westminster Abbey? Is there an alternative?

    The private family funeral is at the Church of St Mary the Great, Cambridge, which is a historic C of E. building associated with the University.
    The link @#4 mentions “Our father’s life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious” buit maybe the religious put more pressure on venue selection, or they simply wished to be associated with the university.

    I suppose if he’s going to the Abbey then there would have to be a COE service to go with it. Is that true?

    Westminster Abbey is a high profile London venue, which has been associated with, and in the charge of Royalty for state occasions for centuries.
    There is no doubt the bishops will exploit the occasion for preaching, but is it very much a historic state building deeply connected to the British Establishment and government.

  7. We consign much to history in this country. People and religion.

    We do though love us a Lucasian Professor. My Faves, Newton, Babbage, Stoke, Dirac, Hawking. Dirac is in the Abbey with Isaac and the First Lucasian Prof. Barrow.

    A veritable autistic repository.

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