Last week, British scientist Stephen Hawking died. The world was shocked by the news and social media exploded with messages in his honor. I’ve rarely been emotional about the death of a celebrity but this time was different because I feel I shared some stories with Hawking and that brought a new meaning to this event.
In the summer of 2002 I had the opportunity to study English at Oxford, without having any idea that this experience had prepared for me a great surprise: meeting a very famous scientist whom I heard about thanks to my teacher of Mathematics, who whenever he had an opportunity told us about his research about the universe. The name of this scientist was Stephen Hawking and it stayed with me not because of what my teacher had told about his scientific contributions, but because he also told us about the motor-neurological disease that had paralysed Hawking almost completely, making him talk through a computer voice program.
Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious in the world, recognised because its faculty is made up of the most outstanding science and arts academics in the world. At that time, the famous Stephen Hawkins taught the university’s maths program.
While I was there, I found out that Hawking would give a special lecture. I must admit I had no interest in attending it but the lecture was given by the scientist idolised by my maths teacher, and that’s reason enough for me to attend it. However, I understand nothing, but I didn’t care because when I went back to school (in Mexico) I was able to tell my teacher that I had met the scientist he admired so much.
Many years later, I watched a movie called “The Theory of Everything” about the life of Stephen Hawking. The film was so moving because it shows the human side of a being so rational that seemed from another planet. The film showed me that more than science, it was the human condition what my teacher and Hawking had in common.
Last year, Stephen Hawking’s most famous book crossed my path: “A brief history of time.” Reading this book transformed me and I finally understood many things about physics and that universe that when I was young seemed incomprehensible. I am aware that I may have not understood everything the book explains perfectly, but reading it aroused my desire to continue learning about astrophysics, the universe and science in general. Hawking’s book helped me to understand in a more rational way the inexplicable events of my life and that made me feel a little bit closer to the infinity within the universe.
I can’t say the death of Stephen Hawking had hurt me. He was not my friend, nor my acquaintance, far from it, but his investigations left a legacy that marked and will continue to influence humanity. And at one moment, I had the fortune to coincide with him in time and space. I haven’t met any other person as transcendental for human history as Hawking . That’s why I wanted to pay tribute to him writing this post.