The world has lost a truly great mind… and a great man. In the small hours of March 14 — affectionately known as Pi Day among math and science types — Dr. Stephen Hawking passed away, age 76.
A mathematics professor at Cambridge, Hawking held 13 honorary degrees and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the highest civilian honor in the United States. It doesn’t seem adequate. We talk of our advances in science and human understanding coming from standing on the shoulders of giants. Dr. Hawking was one such giant, the greatest scientist of our current generation. It’s no exaggeration to say he’ll be remembered in one continuous thought with the likes of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. His studies of the cosmos helped to mold the way we think about our own lives here on earth. And best of all, he was often known for his sense of humor.
On a personal note, Dr. Hawking was one of those people whose very presence was inspirational to me. Physical disability seemed only to spur him on to the next cosmic level challenge. I’ve read some of his books, and while I won’t pretend to have fully understood them, I applaud the work and acknowledge any failure in understanding to be mine. That understanding is still slowly unlocking, and probably always will be. I remain in awe. Regardless, it gave me hope to know that he was out there doing the “big work.” It was a sign to me that not everything in this world has to be about petty stupidities over political factions, religious quibbles, and secular resources. It gives me further hope in knowing that his work will continue in one form or another.
My thoughts go with those family and friends he left behind. Farewell, Dr. Hawking. And thank you.