The annals of science include some great names – Darwin, Einstein, Newton and Galileo to name a few – but Stephen Hawking star burns bright among them.
Hawking’s triumph is even more impressive because he fought for decades against a wasting illness of motor neurone disease that confined him to a wheelchair speaking through a computer voice-box.
As the leading physicist of his generation, he developed the theory of everything while working on black holes.
As a theorist, Hawking faced a dilemma with the second law of thermodynamics, which dictates entropy – a gradual decline in available thermal energy – must always increase.
If this was correct, black holes could not devour some systems, but Hawking proved that black holes had entropy and enlarged as the swallowed entities around them.
This led to the theory of Hawking Radiation – radiation given off by the temperature of a black hole.
His work was as unlimited as the universe he loved to explore.
Besides exceptional work rivalling that of Einstein as a cosmologist and theoretical physicist, Hawking was a devoted father of three with two wives – Jane, who he wed in 1965 and Elaine, who he was married to between 1995 and 2006.
He was born in January 1942 and aged 76 at his death.
Doctors gave him two or three years to live when his motor neurone disease was diagnosed in 1964.
Predicting the future
Although winning a host of scientific award and honours, Hawking was not awarded the Nobel Prize, an honour he cannot now have as the prize is only awarded to living scientists.
Hawking predicted that humans will become extinct around 2600 when the Earth turns into a ball of fire and that governments should investigate setting up colonies on other worlds to avoid the disaster.
He blames overcrowding and too much energy consumption for the demise of humans, although other scientists support his views for different reasons.
They claim humans have stopped evolving and history shows when evolution halts, a species dies out within 200 years.
Hawking was also an opponent of artificial intelligence.
“The emergence of artificial intelligence could be the worst event in the history of our civilization unless society finds a way to control its development,” he said.
“Technology could help eradicate poverty and disease, but admitted its future is uncertain.”