Dr Hawking was 76 when died. But when 21, he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease. Doctors gave him only a few years to live.
No, science was not wrong and he did not prolong his life by God’s grace, he just beat the odds set by the doctors. After exploring the frontiers of scientific knowledge, in 2010 he remarked in his book “The Grand Design” : “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going”.
The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser. But he went on to become a successful and famous theoretical physicist.
Combining the two great theories of physics “Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity” and “Quantum Mechanics”, he discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing – a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation.
When he attended a conference on Cosmology in Vatican, the Pope told the scientists that “it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God”. But, Hawking explored far into the initial moments of the universe. Through his work with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose he demonstrated that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.
He made the latest developments in physics accessible to the common public with his book “A Brief History of Time” published in 1988. The book has sold more than 10 million copies.
For him development of science mattered more than personal glory and awards. In the late 1990s, he was reportedly offered a knighthood, but 10 years later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
On being diagnosed with motor neuron disease, Hawking had said “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus”. With the bonus Hawking achieved so much for humanity. His life sets a benchmark for the rest of humanity with much higher expectations.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, paid tribute to Prof Hawking, saying “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking,”
Dr Hawking – What a Life You Lived! Your scientific works will live on and illuminate the lives of generations to come.