Stephen Hawking: Brilliance that Defies the Odds
While the passing of famous celebrities always catches our attention, hearing of the passing of the great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking reminds us all that our influence extends far beyond how we appear. Against all odds, Hawking became one of the most brilliant and respected scientists, one whose ideas about science and philosophy boggled minds and yet kept us grounded, yet his good nature reminded us that “it wouldn’t be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.” Hawking had overcome the limitations of motor neurone disease (where he had a life expectancy of only two years when he was diagnosed at only 21) and published challenging books such as “A Brief History of Time” (1988) and “The Grand Design” (2010).
While he believed that we are, strictly speaking, another breed of monkeys, the fact that we have the potential to understand “makes us something special.” He wanted people to make sense out of the mysteries around them, and to not give up. He encouraged people to focus on what they were good at, and to pursue those things to succeed. Indeed, being confined to a wheelchair and needing a voice synthesizer to speak, he was never limited by his disability.
The many trials of his life were the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, where he Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking.
Yet, Hawking was always in the public eye, advertising various products, and lending his voice to various Simpsons episodes. He also had a notable guest appearance playing a holographic version of himself on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where, as part of a holographic simulation programed by Commander Data, he, Data, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton have a friendly debate about physics while playing a little poker. It is Hawking who, smiling widely, wins the hand.
His appearance on The Next Generation stemmed from a tour of the set Paramount had given to him while promoting the film version of his book “A Brief History of Time.” He asked to sit in the captain’s chair on the bridge for a moment (a special moment, considering leaving his own chair was something he was not known to ask). Upon seeing the warp core in engineering, he told the producers “I’m working on that.”