HAWK­ING: 1942-2018

A sym­bol of mind’s power


Stephen Hawk­ing, the Bri­tish the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist who over­came a dev­as­tat­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease to probe the great­est mys­ter­ies of the cos­mos and be­come a glob­ally cel­e­brated sym­bol of the power of the hu­man mind, has died, a fam­ily spokesman told The As­so­ci­ated Press. He was 76.

Un­able to move a mus­cle, speech­less but for a com­puter-syn­the­sized voice, Hawk­ing had suf­fered since the age of 21 from a de­gen­er­a­tive mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease sim­i­lar to amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis, or Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease.

Ini­tially given two years to live, a di­ag­no­sis that threw him into a pro­found de­pres­sion, he found the strength to com­plete his doc­tor­ate.

Hawk­ing even­tu­ally be­came one of the planet’s most renowned science pop­u­lar­iz­ers, and he em­braced the at­ten­tion.

“My goal is sim­ple,” he once said. “It is com­plete un­der­stand­ing of the uni­verse, why it is as it is and why it ex­ists at all.” He spent much of his ca­reer search­ing for a way to rec­on­cile Al­bert Ein­stein’s the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity with quan­tum physics and pro­duce a “The­ory of Ev­ery­thing.”

He wrote an in­ter­na­tional best­seller, A Brief His­tory of Time, which delved into the ori­gin and ul­ti­mate fate of the uni­verse. He de­lib­er­ately set out to write a mass-mar­ket primer on an of­ten in­com­pre­hen­si­ble sub­ject.

Al­though the book was some­times de­rided as be­ing dense, and had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing owned more than read, it sold mil­lions of copies, was trans­lated into more than 20 lan­guages, and in­spired a mini-em­pire of sim­i­lar books from Hawk­ing.

With his daugh­ter, Lucy, he wrote a se­ries of chil­dren’s books about a young in­ter­ga­lac­tic trav­eller named Ge­orge. His blunt 2013 me­moir, My Brief His­tory, ex­plored his de­vel­op­ment in science as well as his tur­bu­lent mar­riages.

With the aid of a voice syn­the­sizer, con­trolled by his fin­gers on a key­board, he gave speeches around the world, from Chile to China.

His sci­en­tific achieve­ments in­cluded break­throughs in un­der­stand­ing the ex­treme con­di­tions of black holes, ob­jects so dense that not even light can es­cape their grav­ity.


Stephen Hawk­ing


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