The scientific community and the modern world at large mourn the loss of one of its greatest minds and most famous personalities. Stephen Hawking, whose name has become almost synonymous with modern-day theoretical physics, passed away at the age of 76, not a small achievement considering he wasn’t expected to live beyond 37. But, as with any human being who has reached such a level of renown, his name will permeate not just works in scientific fields but perhaps even popular media as well.
Hawking has become somewhat of a celebrity both within and outside scientific circles. In science, he is best known for his studies and works on cosmology and physics, specifically black holes and relativity, respectively. At the time of his death, he held the position of Cambridge’s Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.
His fame, however, wasn’t limited to the academe. Partly because of his life story and partly because of his figure, he made a presence in some of the oddest places in popular culture as well. Diagnosed with motor neurone disease, he wasn’t expected to reach 40. His paralysis and use of technology to overcome disability, become as much a source of inspiration as his intellect.
Hawking had his own biographical film, “The Theory of Everything”, and has been the subject of numerous documentaries. His very unique form, of a thin man in a wheelchair who speaks through a computer with a heavily synthesized voice, has been referred to in almost anything from films to even cartoons. He numerous cameos as well, including the geek sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”.
October last year, Hawking released his Ph.D. thesis, “Properties of expanding universes”, for free, which promptly crashed Cambridge’s servers. It was his hope that having free access to what was marked as the beginning of his career could help inspire the next generation of physicists to also leave their mark in the universe just as he did.