World-renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking died peacefully on March 14 at the age of 76, at his home in Cambridge. Fifty-five years ago, Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease and predicted to live only two years more.
With mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, he demonstrated that Einstein’s theory of general relativity implies space and time began with the Big Bang and will end in black holes. He also discovered that black holes were not in fact black, they emit heat and eventually fade to nothing. His initial findings were published in 1974 and later became known as Hawking radiation (New York Times). In 2002, Hawking said he wanted the formula for Hawking radiation (New York Times) to be engraved on his tombstone.
Please add Hawking's greatest contributions to science here
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Over the decades his motor neurone disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, gradually paralysed him, eventually forcing him to use a wheelchair and communicate by typing with the movement of his cheek muscles, with the words projected through a voice synthesizer. He became notorious for driving his wheelchair wildly, breaking a leg aged 60 when speeding around a corner in Cambridge (New York Times). According to Business Insider UK, it is rumoured that he would run over the toes of people he didn’t like and once expressed regret for never having had the chance to run over the toes of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Hawking denied these allegations.
After witnessing the hospital death of a boy suffering from leukaemia, Hawking resolved to make the most of life (The Guardian). “When you are faced with the possibility of an early death,” he said, “it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are a lot of things you want to do (New York Times). In 2007, partly to show the potential of people with disabilities, he took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a padded Boeing 727 aircraft.
Hawking became a household name when his 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, stayed on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. It has sold more than 10 million copies.
Known for his humour, Hawking made appearances in The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, and a Star Trek episode where he played poker with Einstein (The Guardian) and told Isaac Newton “not the apple story again”. He was also immortalized in the 2014 movie The Theory of Everything, where Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones played Hawking and his first wife, Jane Wilde. Hawking later married Elaine Mason, divorcing in 2006.
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