Three Cheers for Dr. Hawking: a tribute to a citizen-scientist

hawkings

Stephen Hawking January 8, 1942 – March 14th, 2018. Page 1, New York Times, 3/15/18

A graduate of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, George Cassidy Payne is a SUNY Humanities adjunct professor of philosophy.

Hawking is dead. A genius of unrivaled vigor. Hawking is gone.

Epic Rap Battles of History

“Einstein vs. Hawking: Epic Rap Battles of History” from The Simpson’s

In some ways he fell prey to his own pop celebrity. With an Oscar winning film portrayal, his own Simpsons character, a cameo on The Big Bang Theory, and a reputation as the smartest man alive, it was often difficult for him to avoid the appearance of self-parody.

But Hawking was the smartest man alive. His groundbreaking research on black holes alone placed him on a pedestal with Copernicus, Kepler and Newton. Only Einstein surpassed him for intellectual achievement in the 20th century.

brief history

“…FOR THEN WE WOULD KNOW THE MIND OF GOD” , Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, First Edition, 1988

Famous for demonstrating how black holes actually emit radiation, now regarded as Hawking radiation, his interests covered a stupendous territory:  everything from artificial intelligence, the afterlife, the existence of God, and theories on extraterrestrials. No scholar since Carl Sagan — with his range and clout in the scientific community — did more to inspire the general public to learn about the cosmos. His most popular book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, is a marvelous treatise that expanded the human potential to dream about other realms. 10 million copies later, he brought the secrets of the universe into the possession of experts and laypersons alike.

And who among us has not been awestruck by Stephen Hawking’s perseverance in the face of a bone sucking illness? In the end, amyothropic lateral sclerosis robbed him of his body, but this terrible disease could never claim his mind.  As Hawking once said:

Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet…Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something that you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.

Hawking never gave up. His quest for new knowledge was endless. There was no question he was afraid of answering; just as there was no answer for which he did not work to find a question. Physically limited by a wheelchair and voice machine, Hawking was never limited by his immaculate, untamed desire to discover the truth.

Born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942 on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death,he fittingly passed away on Einstein’s birthday. Three cheers for Dr. Hawking. 

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