Mourners Honor Stephen Hawking, Whose Mind Blazed Bright
Everyone from NASA to the cast of The Big Bang Theory is reacting Wednesday to the death of acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, known for his work on understanding the nature of black holes.
Hawking was the rare scientist who achieved fame in both an esoteric field and popular culture, as Wednesday's outpouring of eulogies shows. His passing was noted by actress Mia Farrow, Apple CEO Tim Cook, former President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
“Nothing cannot exist forever.”- Stephen Hawking pic.twitter.com/dvuVEiExy7— Mia Farrow 🌻 (@MiaFarrow) March 14, 2018
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” -Stephen Hawking. We will always be inspired by his life and ideas. RIP.— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 14, 2018
"Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten." — PM— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 14, 2018
Hawking lived with significant disabilities caused by ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which required him to use wheelchairs to get around and a speech synthesizer for communication. Many remembrances focused on that aspect of his life — including near-miss wheelchair crashes.
Stephen Hawking died today. I nearly killed him, and he me, 15 years ago, when his wheelchair shot out between two parked cars at Cambridge, and I was on my bike. I swerved at the last moment. 100% his fault. God bless you and RIP.— Dr. Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) March 14, 2018
But some observers objected to the notion that death had "freed" Hawking from his disease and the wheelchair.
Seeing folks say that Stephen Hawking is free of his disability is gross. It is also A direct result of ableism and the media representation of disability where we should long to hate and be free of disability.— Keah Brown (@Keah_Maria) March 14, 2018
If some of you talk about me the way you are talking about Stephen Hawking when I die I shall come back to haunt you all, please stop with the ableist ‘he overcame his disability’ talk 🙃 he did everything *with* his disability, not *despite* it— Shona (@shonalouiseblog) March 14, 2018
Pro-tip to journalists:— Alexandra Erin | email@example.com (@AlexandraErin) March 14, 2018
Stephen Hawking *used* a wheelchair. He is the active person in the arrangement. The wheelchair helped him do things. It did not bind him.
Many chose to let Hawking have the last word, simply quoting the man himself.
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
His longtime academic home, the University of Cambridge, shared a touching video tribute narrated by Hawking.
Hawking is survived by his three adult children, who put out a statement saying:
"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."
Correction March 14, 2018
A previous version of this story misspelled sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik's last name as Patnaik.