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 at the age of 76. Ironically, today also marks the birth anniversary of Albert Einstein with whom Hawkings was often compared to.
Unable to move a muscle, speechless but for a computer-synthesised voice, Dr. 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 and rise to the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the same post held by Isaac Newton 300 years earlier.
“At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would never realise the potential I felt I had. But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life,” he wrote in his 2013 memoir My Brief History.
With the aid of a voice synthesizer, controlled by his fingers on a keyboard, he gave speeches around the world, from Chile to China. He played himself on such TV programs as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons, the latter featuring Hawking telling the show’s lazy animated patriarch, “Your theory of a doughnut-shaped universe is interesting, Homer. I may have to steal it”, and more recently in The Big Bang Theory.
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