Stephen Hawking, the groundbreaking theoretical physicist, passed away peacefully at his home in Cambridge early Wednesday at the age of 76. Although I suspect many of our children know him only through the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” he was truly one of the great minds of our time.
Hawking had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s that gradually paralyzed him over the decades, but he fought every day to stay alive and working. Even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle. His grit and tenacity inspired people all over the world, and as the European Space Agency wrote, he “showed us there are no limits to achieving our dreams”
One of his greatest impacts was bringing his complex theories to the general public through his bestselling book, “A Brief History of Time.”
His contributions to his field were enormous: the existence of singularities and the theory that the universe might have started as a singularity, the second law of black hole dynamic, new ideas in quantum gravity and quantum mechanics, and the concept that the universe had no boundary in space-time – before the Big Bang, time did not exist and the concept of the beginning of the universe was meaningless. You physicists out there will understand this better than I.
Someone said that with his death, a star on earth blinked out. I would like to think another one blinked in, out there, in our heavens. I hope Hawking is finding the answers to his questions.