Stephen Hawking: Remembering the physicist and ambassador of science

Teary tributes poured in from national and international leaders on the demise of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking on Wednesday.

Acknowledged as the world’s greatest living scientist, Stephen Hawking, who was also a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician and author of numerous books, passed away at 76, his family spokesperson said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu took to Twitter to express their condolence on the demise of the ambassador of science.

“Professor Stephen Hawking was an outstanding scientist and academic. His grit and tenacity inspired people all over the world. His demise is anguishing. Professor Hawking’s pioneering work made our world a better place. May his soul rest in peace,” PM Modi said in a tweet message.

“Sad to hear of the passing of scientist Stephen Hawking. His brilliant mind made our world and our universe a less mysterious place. And his courage and resilience will remain an inspiration for generations #PresidentKovind,” President Ram Nath Kovind said in a tweet.

“Passing away of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who unraveled mysteries of universe to the public, is a huge loss to the scientific world. #StephenHawking #science #Hawking,” Vice president Venkaiah Naidu said in his message.

Many international science agencies, celebrities and political leaders across the globe too took to twitter to express their condolence.

‏“Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014,” NASA said in a message.

“R.I.P to a true genius who inspired us all to wonder #StephenHawking,” British Science Association said in a message.

“Thank you for the time you spent with the people of this world Mr. Stephen Hawking. The world will cherish your memory,” Indian filmmaker and actor Kamal Hassan said in a message.

“Saddened to hear that one of the world’s greatest minds, Professor Stephen Hawking, has passed away. It is a great loss to the scientific community, but his legacy will live on for generations to come. My condolences to his family,” Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, said in a tweet.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942 — the 300th death anniversary of astronomer Galileo and died on March 14, 2018 – the birth anniversary of Albert Einstein.

Author of ‘A Brief History of Time,’ Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, Hawking’s contribution to science include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation.

Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease when he was 21, and doctors initially only gave him a few years to live. The disease left him in wheelchair all through his life. With the help of a speech synthesizer Hawking was able to speak in a computerized voice with American accent.

Hawking attended Radlett School in Hertfordshire and his father wanted him to attend the well-regarded Westminster School, but the 13-year-old Hawking was ill on the day of the scholarship examination. And his family could not afford the school fees without the financial aid of a scholarship, so Hawking remained at St Albans. His father also wanted him to attend University College, Oxford. As it was not possible to pursue mathematics there at the time, Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry and he was awarded a scholarship at Oxford after taking the examinations in March 1959.