BIDYUT CHATTERJEE, FARIDABAD
WORLD is in deepest shock to hear renowned British physicist and cosmologist Stephen William Hawking’s death at the age of 76. He was regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein. Hawking’s birthday is on January 8, 1942, which coincides with the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death and his death on March 14, coincides with 139th birth anniversary of Albert Einstein. But the most amazing fact about Hawking was that even though his body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when Hawking was 21, he stunned doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years. A severe attack of pneumonia in 1985 left him breathing through a tube, forcing him to communicate through an electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his distinctive robotic monotone. It is a credit to British NHS that gave him excellent medical care for all these years. He wrote many books, started with a children’s book ‘George’s Secret Key to the Universe’, but his ‘A Brief History of Time’, became a bestseller with over 10 million copies sold in 20 years. It has been translated in at least three dozen languages. In 1997, he lost a bet made with American theoretical physicist John Preskill. He claimed that nothing can escape a black hole, not even information. However, he was proven wrong and he admitted his mistake in 2004. Hawking believed that in future our planet may not be able to sustain human life and hence, humans would need to travel in zero-gravity environments to colonise other planets and their satellites. His achievements, and his longevity, also helped in proving many that even the most severe disabilities need not stop patients from living. Interestingly Hawking’s early life was filmed in the 2014 film ‘The Theory of Everything,’ with Eddie Redmayne winning the best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the scientist. But such a genius, Hawking has never been nominated for a Nobel Prize, mainly because of the field of his research – black holes.