Stephen Hawking, an award-winning, most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein, the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and the author of A Brief History of Time, an international bestseller, died early Wednesday morning.
In 1963, shortly after Stephen’s 21st birthday, he was diagnosed with ALS, a form of Motor Neuron Disease and was given two years to live! Even though he was bounded forever in a wheel-chair, he was able to combine his family life -having three children and three grandchildren- with his love for research in theoretical physics and public lectures.
In 1985, he was admitted to a hospital in Geneva with pneumonia. His condition was critical. The doctors asked Hawking’s wife, Jane, whether they should turn off the life support, but she refused.
Hawking was then flown to a Hospital, in Cambridge, where the doctors managed to contain the infection. To help him breathe, they also performed a tracheotomy, which involved cutting a hole in his neck and placing a tube into his windpipe. As a result, Hawking survived the operation but irreversibly lost the ability to speak and became dependent on an electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his trademark robotic “voice.”
From 1979 to 2009 he held the Lucasian Professor position at Cambridge, which was held by Isaac Newton in 1663. He had many honorary degrees, Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009) by President Barack Obama, most notably the Fundamental Physics prize (2013), Copley Medal (2006) the world’s oldest award for scientific achievement, the Wolf Foundation prize (1988) and was awarded the CBE in 1982, which is an honor awarded to an individual by the Queen for a leading role and stands for “Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire“. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Science.
In his 2013 memoir, he described how he felt when first diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
“I felt it was very unfair – why should this happen to me,” he wrote.
“At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would never realize the potential I felt I had. But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life.”
His life story was the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.
Professor Hawking died leaving behind three children who stated, “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 humor inspired people across the world.”