Stephen William Hawking passed away at age 76 on March 14, 2018, according to a family spokesman. Hawking was born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England, and was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, England.
He was known for his groundbreaking work on gravitational singularities, or black-holes as we more commonly refer to them. He contributed to the theory of cosmic inflation, leaning on Alan Guth’s theory, which suggests that the universe is constantly growing in all directions, ever so, following the big bang. He became famed through his authorship of books, such as A Brief History of Time.
Hawkings had a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, “ALS,” or Lou Gehrig’s disease), that gradually paralyzed him over the decades. Completely immobilized due to his chronic illness, he did much for the field of theoretical physics and inspired millions who read his books or attended his lectures.
Hawking, a life of accomplishments
Hawking received numerous various honors in his lifetime. In 1975, he became the youngest person to be elected to the Royal Society of London. He was also awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in 1985.
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
It was already at a young age that Hawking found a hungry interest in science and mathematics. For many, Hawking was more than just a physicist in a wheelchair; he was regarded as an “ambassador of science.”
Watch this video from NASA with astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who spoke with Professor Hawking during their mission earlier this year:
Sharp minded yet humble
There is hardly any other topic that Hawking followed with more passion than the search for the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. First suspected to exist in the 1960s, it is the quantum excitation of the Higgs field, a fundamental field of crucial importance to particle physics theory.
Hawkings argued emphatically that the Higgs boson would never be found, in a humorous engagement in a public argument with Peter Higgs. To the contrary, however, the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012. Hawkings promptly admitted his mistake and suggested Peter Higgs should win the Nobel Prize for Physics, which Higgs did in 2013.
Watch one of the last speeches Stephen Hawking gave before he died: