R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

Hawking with University of Oxford librarian Richard Ovenden (left) and naturalist David Attenborough (right) at the opening of the Weston Library, Oxford, in March 2015. Ovenden awarded the Bodley Medal to Hawking and Attenborough at the ceremony. John Cairns - The Bodleian Libraries

Hawking’s ‘The Universe In a Nutshell’ was one of the first astronomy books that I read. It was a revelation and it solidified in me the desire to become an astrophysicist, and the need to talk about science. Science was there for everyone to do and understand. It is almost comically simple, at least after one had gone through the arduous path of doing all the calculations and experiments.

His death is a very sad affair for me, but I’ve been very fortunate. I saw him speak many times, each time more delightful than the last. Each time, he rekindled the inspiration that he first instilled in me. I was lucky enough to ask him a question in 2016. You can hear my voice shaking at 2:45 in the video below.

He was not a saint or a perfect man. No one is. We should not ignore those facts and elevate him to something he was not. Nor should he be demonised for his less than perfect personal life. He was human. In the end, he worked hard, and not just in science. He was a staunch campaigner for the NHS for example. His legacy, his work, and his activism will live on.