WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking died peacefully early Wednesday morning at his home in Cambridge.
- Hawking has died at the age of 76 after complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease he had since 1963.
- He was acclaimed for his work on black holes and in the mathematical effort to combine Einstein’s general theory of relativity with the field of quantum physics.
Stephen Hawking was born on Jan. 8, 1942. He was diagnosed with the debilitating disease ALS when he was 21. About 80 percent of patients with ALS die within five years of diagnosis. Even Hawking’s doctors told him he had about two years to live. But he survived for over fifty years, much longer than any other ALS patient in medical history.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” he motivated himself. “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.”
Using a wheelchair to move around and an advanced computer system to speak, he became a famous public figure.
Hawking rose to fame in 1988 after publishing his book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. It later became one of the best-selling science books of all time, with approximately 10 million copies sold.
Hawking became a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society when he was just 32. He taught at the California Institute of Technology for a short period before becoming a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton over 400 years ago.
When Hawking contracted pneumonia in 1985, he underwent a tracheotomy to allow him to breathe but caused his inability to speak naturally. Computer scientist Walter Woltosz created a device for him in 1986 that would vocalize words he typed using a joystick.
“The Computer,” which Hawking fondly called has been upgraded multiple times and has been an integral part of his public image.
Hawking’s personal story was made into a movie in 2014. “The Theory of Everything” was based on a memoir by Jane Wilde, Hawking’s first wife. He was portrayed by Eddie Redmayne who won an Oscar for best actor for his role.
Hawking reflected on the origins of the universe on the Discovery Channel TV series “Curiosity” in 2011. It is also in this series that he dismissed the idea of both a God and an afterlife.
“It’s a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he said. “Only in confronting the finite nature of death do we appreciate the remarkable beauty of life in the present.”
“There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful,” Hawking said.