Britain laments that Stephen Hawking has rejoined the universe he spent his life understanding. Hawking believed in life not after-life, tributes are pouring in from the academic and celebrity worlds. It is thanks to everyone’s favourite cosmologist there has been considerable growth in students choosing to study natural science and mathematics. Hawking reached out to the young through their medium, comedy. Hawking appeared in an episode of Star Trek playing a card game with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, with his friend and fellow physicist Brian Cox in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life; posing as a Simon Cowell character selecting stars for Comic Relief and again hamming it up with David Walliams in Little Britain; correcting the Big Bang Theory’s boffin Sheldon Cooper and mostly memorably his intermittent appearances in The Simpsons since 1999 have charmed every generation.
How refreshing that this theoretical physicist, a living genius in our time was able to not take himself too seriously. At the Big Bang Fair which opened in Birmingham this week, school children and university students were talking animatedly about how Hawking had and continues to inspire them. New research shows that kids 7-19 would consider studying science, technology, engineering and maths if they were taught around the feats of superhero characters, as Hawking understood when playing himself in three episodes and four films of Futurama.
His book The Brief History of Time is the world’s most popular science book, 10 million copied sold and four years on the best seller list; Hawking made the birth and mysteries of the universe into a conversation that anyone could join. Long live his spontaneous humour and appreciation of life through the synthesized voice that he made recognisable and is admired all over the world.