Death of a Visionary Physicist

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking dies at age 76

Jacob Braun, Reporter

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On Wed., March 14, 2018, Stephen Hawking died in his home in Cambridge, England at the age of 76. Hawking was a renowned theoretical physicist known for his theories on black holes and the mechanisms that compose the universe.

Born in Oxford in 1942, Stephen Hawking was the son of two medical researchers, Frank and Isobel Hawking. He went on to attend the University of Oxford, his father’s alma mater, to study physics. By the end of his collegiate years, Hawking received a PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

In 1963, while a graduate student at Trinity Hall in Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurological disease that over time causes voluntary muscles to weaken, eventually leaving the afflicted immobile. While being confined to a wheelchair hindered his mobility, he went on to publish his first thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes”.

In 1985, following a tracheotomy, Stephen Hawking lost all abilities of speech. Despite this setback, a speech synthesizer allowed Hawking to still communicate his ideas and theories. The synthesizer used a sensor that was attached to his cheek muscle, to let him choose the words he wanted the computer to say. Regardless of this difficulty, Hawking published one of his most well-known books in 1988, A Brief History of Time.

Throughout his career Hawking made groundbreaking theories about the universe and how it works. His many works in the advancement of astrophysics resulted in many awards and recognition, ranging from the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Albert Einstein medal. While once being offered to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, Hawking declined as a response to the UK government’s lack of funding for science.

Upon hearing the news of Hawking’s passing, fellow astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted, “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018.”

Stephen Hawking made many strides throughout his career despite significant hardships and setbacks. Regardless of these challenges, his devotion to the study of the universe remained strong and true in every aspect of his life.

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