Photograph — Semana Image

As renowned physicist Stephen Hawking bade the world goodbye at 76, Africa together with the rest of the world continues to mourn his departure. Ever since the public announcement of his death, tons of condolence messages have been received from fellow scientists, world leaders, students, families and friends.

The scientist who reportedly died at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, 14th March, made the news not only because he lived most of his life on a wheelchair as he battled a motor neurone disease but also for his immense contribution to the field of science.

In the narrative of science in Africa, one highlight that cannot be forgotten is Stephen Hawking’s 2008 tour to South Africa which was quite memorable. During his 2008 South Africa tour, Hawking met with foremost African Leader, Nelson Mandela, expressing his pleasure to meet Mandela –telling of his admiration of the anti-apartheid leader, as demonstrated in resolving such a major disaster as the fight against racism.

During the same 2008 tour, Stephen Hawking joined to leave an admirable legacy behind. His open support and massive promotion for the Next Einstein Initiative –an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) initiative, reminds Africans of his remarkable interest, concern and contribution to the continent’s development.

Born on January 8, 1942, Stephen William Hawking became one of the world’s most well-regarded scientists, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton. His work focused on bringing together relativity, the nature of space and time, and quantum theory –how the smallest particles in the Universe behave.

In 1974, Hawking became one of the youngest fellows of Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, at the age of 32. In 1979, Hawking  was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, where he had moved from Oxford University to study theoretical astronomy and cosmology.

The renowned Professor and inspirational personality, who finished with a first class degree in Physics from Oxford, has been generally described as one of the greatest scientists of his age.

Other quick facts about Stephen Hawking

  • Stephen earned a place at Oxford University to read natural science in 1959, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge.
  • By 1963, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live.
  • He outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation” in 1974.
  • In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.
  • He published his book A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has sold more than 10 million copies.
  • In the late 1990s, he was reportedly offered a knighthood, but 10 years later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science.
  • As a man of great humour, he became a popular ambassador for science and was always careful to ensure that the general public had ready access to his work.
  • His book A Brief History of Time became an unlikely best-seller although it is unclear how many people actually managed to get to the end of it.
  • He appeared in a number of popular TV shows and lent his synthesised voice to various recordings.
  • Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford on 8 January 1942. His father, a research biologist, had moved with his mother from London to escape German bombing.
  • Hawking grew up in London and St Albans and, after gaining a first-class degree in physics from Oxford, went on to Cambridge for postgraduate research in cosmology.

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