Rest in Peace, Professor

IMG_0720Didn’t I just do one of these?

Sadly, time refuses to stand still…and death to stay his hand.

This time it was a titan not of the smaller world of sci-fi, but one that strode the entire world: Stephen Hawking.

Now, unless you live under a rock — or are just totally divorced from popular culture — you know who Hawking was, at least in a general way.

Take what you know and multiply that a hundred times.

Many of us know Hawking as the man who managed to “boil down” the incomprehensibility of astrophysics and cosmology in A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell.  More, even, know of him from The Simpsons and Star Trek and Big Bang Theory.

Hawking was a great communicator, yes, but he was no vapid, empty suit who could talk only about others’ theories and accomplishments. His (all-but-incomprehensible-to-normal-humans) work on the Big Bang and on blackholes provide some of the very building blocks in their respective areas of cosmology and astrophysics.  He challenged theories and thought — even his own! — and he changed things.  In the process, he left an intellectual legacy that will last for generations.

But he was (still) more than that.

He was one of the bravest, and most driven, humans to ever live.

Most saw the wheelchair, and the attached computers that allowed him to communicate, and saw shackles and limitations.  Hell, the doctors who gave him two years to live — in 1963 — saw only death and failure.  Hawking, however, saw past those limitations and found reasons to live, and to thrive: “However difficult life may seem,” he said, more than 50 years after his predicted demise, “there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

So, to the man who was “supposed to die” in his twenties, I say this: Congratulations, sir, on a life well and truly lived.  Thank you for surpassing every boundary, whether theoretical or real, and for teaching others to follow.


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