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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Stephen Hawking: The greatest mind of 21st century passes away

News Desk |

Professor Stephen Hawking passed away at age of 76 in Cambridge, London.

A statement by his family said, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.” Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim also said in the statement that ‘he was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.’

Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease just after his 21st birthday in 1963 and was given only a few years to live. With that, he lost his ability to speak and was wheel-chair bound for life. Since then, he had been managing to talk with the help of a voice synthesizer. Despite these challenges, he continued to work in the field of physics, mathematics, and cosmology, unlocking the secrets of the Universe while having a family life as well. He has three children and three grandchildren.

After Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking was probably the most well-known scientist in the 20th and the 21st century. It can be said that he inherited the mantle of a scientific genius after Albert Einstein. His work has deepened our understanding of the Universe and its mysteries. He is the author of a number of popular science books, most notably A Brief History of Time, which sold 9 million copies. His other famous works include ‘A Universe in a Nutshell’, ‘Black Holes’, and ‘Baby Universe’, ‘God created the Integers and A Briefer History of Time’.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England on the 8th of January, 1942. Oxford was considered a relatively safe place to have babies during the Second World War. He pursued physics at the University College at Oxford and was awarded a first class honors degree in natural science. Stephen began researching in cosmology in 1962 after arriving at the Department of Applied Mathematics an Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. His Ph.D. thesis was on the ‘Properties of Expanding Universe’. He had thirteen honorary degrees and was awarded the Companion of Honour in 1989 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He was a member of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and the National Academy of Sciences in the United States as well.

Professor Stephen Hawking has done a lot of valuable work in helping us understand the natural laws that govern the universe. Together with his colleague Roger Penrose, Hawking showed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied space-time began with the Big Bang and ends in Black Holes. He also discovered that Black Holes are not empty but actually emit radiation, what came to be known as ‘Hawking’ radiation. Another corollary from his research is that the Universe has no definite edge or boundary. And one of his more mind-numbing discoveries is that it doesn’t make sense to ask questions about what existed before the Big Bang. “It’s like asking what is south of the South Pole”, Stephen Hawking once said.

He had a number of publications to his name including General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravitation, with W Israel. However, the total number of scientific publications by Professor Stephen Hawking is too great to recount here.

He was widely regarded as one of the smartest men in the Universe in the 20th century, arguably one of the smartest of all time. He was popular outside the academic world as well. He voiced himself in the popular American Sitcom The Simpsons, appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 2014, a popular biographical movie about the life of the Professor Hawking was released as well. According to Micheal Turner, Cosmologist at the University of Chicago, “He [Hawking] added a human face to science. It goes well beyond the wheelchair.”

His death is a great loss not just for the academia but for the rest of the world as well. Stephen Hawking has made enormous contributions to the fields of cosmology, physics, mathematics and the theory of relativity. The work he has done has added great value to the scientific endeavor and in helping us understand our place in the Universe.

Perhaps, it is unfair to the great man that one focuses solely on his scientific accomplishments, for he had a human side too. In the statement released by his family, he is quoted as saying, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’