British physicist Stephen Hawking died Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at the age 76, according to his family.
One of the most prestigious scientists and one of the most popular theoretical physicists of the last decades has begun his never-ending journey through the fabrics of the universe.
“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 for many years,” they said in a statement.
Professor Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, in the United Kingdom, and was considered one of the most influential scientists since the great Albert Einstein, not only for his decisive contributions to scientific progress, but also for his constant concern to bring science closer to the public and his extraordinary courage against the degenerative disease that he battled against that put him in a wheelchair.
Hawking needed an electronic synthesizer to be able to speak, but his voice ended up being heard all over the world.
To move around, he used his chair, which he controlled with the movement of head and eyes.
Son of a biologist who decided to take his family out of London to save them from the German bombings during World War II, Hawking grew up in the city of St Albans.
As a student, he soon proved how important he would eventually become for society.
He graduated with honors in Physics at Oxford and later obtained a postgraduate degree in Cosmology at the University of Cambridge.
At the age of only 21, everything changed for the young Stephen Hawking. He began noticing that his movements were getting clumsy, and he had difficulties moving. Soon after, 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 did not bring good news, predicting that he would not live beyond two years.
“The commitment saved my life, it gave me a reason to live,” he said 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 functionally fingers and a few facial muscles.
However, this ‘limitation’ did not prevent him from continuing to work on his theories and disseminating them through books and public events.
In 1988 he had published his book “Brief History of Time”, which sold more than 10 million copies, becoming a worldwide bestseller.
Through his work and his books, he proved that the passion to which he devoted his entire life, to study the laws that govern the universe, could also be attractive to the general public and not only scientists.
He was right.
He turned his disability into one of the keys to his scientific work.
When he lost the mobility of the arms, he insisted on being able to solve the most complex calculations with the mind alone, without writing down the equations.
What other’s saw as a limitation, Professor Hawking saw as another challenge to overcome, and through his years he proved that he was really good at overcoming challenges.
Soon he began to propose revolutionary theses that questioned the established scientific theories.
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 its end in black holes.
In 1976, and following the statements of quantum physics, Hawking concluded in his “Theory of Radiation” that black holes—regions with such powerful gravity that even light cannot escape—were capable of emitting energy and losing matter.
His theories never stalled, and he continued developing them throughout the years.
In 2004 he refuted himself and came to the conclusion that black holes do not absorb everything.
In other words, Hawking played a definitive role in the diffusion of 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 understood and read through by few, Hawking worked on a shorter version (of the already brief history of time) and made it more “readable”.
The British physicist tried, by all means, to get people closer to the mysteries of the universe and in search of this objective he never hesitated to resort to humor and was able to find a bright, small light, even inside of black holes.
Hawking won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Fundamental Physics Prize, but the Nobel prize, however, eluded him.