Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who revolutionized our way of understanding the universe
His had become the image of science, but also of humanity.
British physicist Stephen Hawking died on March 14, 2018, at the age of 76, according to his family.
Thus, one of the most prestigious scientists and one of the most popular popularizers of recent decades left.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of our father,” said his children Lucy, Robert, and Tim.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years to come,” they said in a statement.
Born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, in the United Kingdom, he was considered one of the most influential scientists since Albert Einstein, not only for his decisive contributions to scientific progress but also for his constant concern for bringing science closer to the public. and his courage from him in the face of the degenerative disease he suffered from and which left him in a wheelchair.
Hawking needed an electronic synthesizer to be able to speak, but his voice ended up being heard around the world.
To get around, he used his chair, which he controlled with the movement of his head and eyes.
Prostrated by illness
The son of a biologist who decided to move his family out of London to save them from German bombing during World War II, Hawking grew up in the town of St Albans.
As a student, it didn’t take long to prove its worth. He graduated with honors in Physics from Oxford and later obtained a postgraduate degree in Cosmology from Cambridge University.
Young Hawking liked horseback riding and rowing.
But at the age of 21 everything changed. She began noticing that his movements were becoming clumsier and it was then that he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease.
At that time he was planning the wedding with Jane Wilde, his first wife.
The doctors predicted that he would not live beyond two years.
“The commitment saved my life. It gave me a reason to live,” he recounted years later.
The couple had three children.
Hawking defied all odds and the disease progressed more slowly than expected, but over the years it ended up leaving him with only two fingers and some facial muscles moving.
This did not prevent him from continuing to work on his theories and spreading them through books and public events.
In 1988 he completed his “Brief History of Time”, which with more than 10 million copies sold worldwide became an absolute success.
He had shown that the passion to which he devoted his entire life, studying the laws that govern the universe, could also be attractive to the general public.
He managed to make his disability become one of the keys to his scientific work. When he lost the mobility of his arms, he insisted on being able to solve the most complex calculations with his mind alone, without writing down or solving equations.
Soon he began to propose revolutionary theses that questioned the established canons.
One of his most daring statements was to consider that the General Theory of Relativity formulated by Einstein implied that space and time had a beginning in the Big Bang and their end in black holes.
In 1976, and following the statements of Quantum Physics, Hawking concluded in his “Radiation Theory” that black holes -those regions with such a force of gravity that not even light can escape from them- were capable of emitting energy and losing matter.
In 2004 he refuted himself and concluded that black holes do not absorb everything.
“The black hole only appears in silhouette but then it opens up and reveals information about what has fallen inside. This allows us to ascertain the past and predict the future,” said the scientist.
Hawking played a definitive role in disseminating cosmology in terms easy to understand for the general public.
Aware that his book had sold a lot, but due to its complexity had been finished by few, Hawking produced a shorter version (of the already brief history of time) and more “readable”.
The British physicist tried, by all means, to get people closer to the mysteries of the universe, and in pursuit of this goal, he did not hesitate to resort to humor.
In an appearance on the popular television show “The Simpsons,” the scientist warned Homer that he was going to steal his idea that the universe is shaped like a donut.
Another example of his handling of irony is present on his own website, with anecdotes told by himself.
“When I had to give a lecture in Japan, I was asked not to mention a possible collapse of the universe, because this could affect the stock market…” he wrote.
“However, I can assure anyone worried about their investments that it’s a bit early to sell: even if the universe does come to an end, it won’t be for at least 20 billion years.”