Stephen Hawking’s lasting legacy

Hawking
By Sawyer Pollitt, Staff Writer

The universe is a vast, uncaring expanse that encompasses all that ever was, all that is, and all that ever will be. Frankly, its daunting and scary.

Since our inception, we as a species have made attempts to come closer to understanding not only the world we live in, but the universe as a whole. Among our kind, few have led the charge more valiantly than Dr. Stephen Hawking.

Born in Oxford, England in 1942, Stephen Hawking attended Oxford and received a degree in physics, then continued to Cambridge where he was awarded his PhD and research positions.

Dr. Hawking has pushed the boundaries of science during his time on Earth. As director of research of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, Dr. Hawking has developed theories relating to black holes, the big bang theory, and quantum gravity just to name a few. These advancements are, without a doubt, extremely important to the world of physics. However, they don’t impact everyday life, and the common man.

We can’t fully recognize his achievements if we only look at how he impacted the world through his research, theories, and conjectures. Dr. Stephen Hawking’s legacy is more important than that.

Stephen Hawking has become, to many, the physical embodiment of science. His image has become synonymous with science and has pervaded popular culture. From being featured in and providing his own voice for TV shows like The Simpsons and Futurama to being brought onto academic programs to provide commentary on scientific topics, Stephen Hawking has been the go-to whenever scientific thought has to be represented in a visual or auditory way.

His image is recognizable in ways that other scientists and professionals cannot hope to emulate. Through that image he has been able to reach a wider audience than possible through academic papers and books, however important they may be. 

His widespread, unique, and well-known image, of course, can be attributed to his iconic wheel chair and voice. Suffering from ALS since the age of 21, Dr. Hawking quickly became wheelchair bound and required the use of a text-to-speech computer for verbal communication. This however did not limit him mentally; he not only has exceeded expectations and outlived his initial prognosis, but he advanced the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology by leaps and bounds. His ability to defy the odds and contribute so much to the world has served to be an inspiration for many and that is where his true legacy lies.

Inspiration is deeply valued and immeasurably important in the scientific community and some of the greatest modern scientists, like Carl Sagan, have achieved their greatness through their ability to interact with and inspire the public. His disability did not define the contributions he made however, his strong personality, which was enough of a force to break past the limitations of a computer, was able to humanize the field of science.

With Stephen Hawking’s death, the world loses a great mind and an even greater advocate of scientific thought. His legacy will undoubtedly continue on and his image will continue to be used as a representation of human scientific achievement. He will be missed, not just by the academic world, to which he contributed so much, but by the public who he inspired to question, explore, and learn.

Photo Courtesy: Hawking

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