In memoriam, Stephen Hawking

As I wend my way to sleep, I am greeted with the gutting news that Professor Stephen Hawking has passed away.

I can’t say that I was consumed with his exploits. But I took comfort that a human existed who pushed at the boundaries of what was known.

My first real exposure to him was Errol Morris’ documentary A Brief History of Time. The combination of imagery, music, and science was intoxicating. I can’t claim that if I read the book upon which the movie was based I would understand it. But the film gave me an insight into a singular human being, beyond his revolutionary theories.

Professor Hawking lived a much fuller life than had been allotted him. His illness should have taken him away from us fifty years ago, before he made all his discoveries. That he lived so long, one might say, was down to the Providence he so frequently disparaged. (I, of course, wouldn’t say that, as I share his views on that Providence, which seems, at the very least, to be supremely fickle.)

Now someone else will have to take up the mantle of discovering the Theory of Everything, that elegant mathematical equation which will reconcile Einstein with quantum mechanics. That his passing came so suddenly, with no forewarning, is shocking. It is a shock to science, and may be a spur to those who have labored under his shadow.

Requiescat in pacem, Professor Hawking. May those who follow you be worthy of your mantle.

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