Stephen Hawking, the famous scientist whose genius broke through into pop culture, is dead at the age of 76, his children have confirmed. He was considered by many to be the world’s most famous scientist, achieving a level of celebrity that most theoretical physicists do not.
Speaking through a computer and confined to a wheelchair due to debilitating ALS, Hawking’s genius remained. He changed human thinking on gravity, among other accomplishments. His thoughts “shaped modern cosmology.”
NASA joined those memorializing Hawking, writing, “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 on @Space_Station in 2014.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hawking’s Cause of Death May Have Been Related to ALS
Hawking’s cause of death may have been related to his battles with ALS, according to The Huffington Post, which reported that he died “after complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.” Hawking had been diagnosed with the disease in 1963, and doctors initially said he would only live two more years.
Certainly, ALS was an affliction that changed his quality of life, although not his contribution to society. “For much of his time in the public eye, though, he has been confined to a wheelchair by a form of the motor-neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). And since 1985 he has had to speak through his trademark computer system—which he operates with his cheek—and have around-the-clock care,” reported Scientific American.
“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years,” Hawking told The Guardian. “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”
2. Hawking’s Three Children Released a Statement Commending His Courage & Brilliance
According to Sky News, Hawking is survived by three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, who said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
Hawking was married two times. Elaine Mason was Stephen Hawking’s second wife. She married him in 1995, after he split from his first wife, Jane Hawking. Stephen Hawking and Elaine Mason met when she was working as his caregiver. However, she filed for divorce after 15 years. You can read more about Elaine Mason here:
3. Hawking Wrote a Wildly Popular Science Book & Is Known For His Work on Black Holes
According to Biography.com, “Scientist Stephen Hawking is known for his groundbreaking work with black holes and relativity, and is the author of several popular science books including ‘A Brief History of Time.'” The seminal book was designed to introduce cosmology to average readers and 10 million of them bought the book, but Hawking famously commented that the tome was “the most popular book never read.”
That book “became an account of cosmology for the masses and offered an overview of space and time, the existence of God and the future,” Biography.com reports. Hawking was born in England in 1942 on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death.
His father was a research biologist, and his parents moved from London to Oxford because of Nazi bombing during World War II, according to The BBC.
According to Scientific American, Hawking “spent 30 years as a full professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge. And he is currently the director of research at the school’s Center for Theoretical Cosmology.” Hawking’s contributions to human knowledge were revolutionary; he provided theories on theoretical physics “that gave the world new insights into the creation of the universe.”
Some of his views offended the religious, and he could be an antagonistic personality, The Guardian reported.
4. Hawking Broke Into Pop Culture, Appearing on Shows Like The Simpsons
Hawking was played by Eddie Redmayne in the movie, The Theory of Everything, a role that won Redmayne an Oscar. Hawking appeared on shows like The Simpsons, bringing science into pop culture.
One fan echoed the thoughts of many when writing that Hawking was the best cameo character on The Simpsons.
His adventures into the world of pop culture allowed Hawking to showcase his sense of humor.
Hawking also famously appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. “Hawking became something of a pop culture icon, known widely for his sense of humor,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.
5. People Filled Social Media With Stephen Hawking Tributes & Quotes
Tributes poured in for Stephen Hawking as news broke of his death. Many people shared famous Stephen Hawking quotes. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” Hawking once said, among other profundities. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”