Thursday, March 15, 2018
Remembering Stephen Hawking
There's been a lot in the media about the sad news of the death of Stephen Hawking and it made me remember my old Cambridge days.
He was a familiar sight then and I often saw him sitting in his wheel chair zooming along the streets of Cambridge, zipping across roads with an alarming speed.
While I studied in the same department as him - the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP to its friends) - he didn't teach us undergrads.
One of my post-grad friends who was lucky enough to have him as a lecturer invited me to the senior common room for tea when Hawking was there - not sure if that's enough for me to claim to have had tea with him but it was certainly memorable.
He wasn't always right and like all humans he had his failings. But he asked the big questions about the universe and came back with some big answers. He made science accessible with a recurring role in shows like The Big Bang Theory. He stood up for what he believed in politically.
And he showed that humans are defined by their mind more than their body: despite doctor's early prognosis he was to live a full life.
It reminded me of Charles Darwin who it is often forgotten was ill for large parts of his life. Darwin also noted that "Even ill-health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement".
But Hawking seems to have enjoyed those distractions of society and amusement as well as doing great science: