'Wherever you are in this miraculous multiverse, thank you': readers' tributes to Stephen Hawking

Guardian readers share their tributes and memories of the physicist and author of A Brief History of Time


Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science
, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76.

For fellow scientists and loved ones, it was Hawking’s intuition and wicked sense of humour that marked him out as much as the fierce intellect which, coupled with his illness, came to symbolise the unbounded possibilities of the human mind.

We asked Guardian readers to tell us the impact Stephen Hawking had on their lives.

‘Hawking destroyed harmful prevalent stereotypes’: Heather Wolf

After breaking my neck and suffering reflex sympathetic dystrophy (CRPS), and two major neck reconstructive surgeries, I was terrified of my future. I often thought of Hawking, loving life and producing extraordinary works of genius in physics from a wheelchair. Knowing he existed drove me to endure pain and physical limitations because he showed with his life and with his actions that life is absolutely precious and that the scope of it is bounded only by our will, tenacity and imagination.

He stood alongside Einstein and Feinman who loved questions. Endowed with a never ending sense of awe he embraced life exactly as it is and he found a way to love it. He showed not only what a human being is capable of but also the nature of what we are. We are capable of wonder if we love the questions themselves as the poet Rilke once wrote.

I’m a human rights advocate and founder of Cure CRPS Foundation – a coalition for the terminally ill, disabled and elderly. Hawking is the ultimate role model. He reminds us that what resides within a human being is far greater in value than our society assigns. We are all capable of extraordinary achievements. That the actual substance of life is about allowing others to help you so that you can continue to embrace life from the new point of view. Hawking destroyed harmful prevalent stereotypes that the terminally ill are incapable of contributing to society.

Dear Hawking, wherever you are in this miraculous multiverse, thank you. Thank you for inspiring us. Thank you for driving hope and light into our hearts. Thank you for never giving up, for never giving into fear. Thank you for igniting in generations a childlike sense of wonder. Thank you for exemplifying what human beings are actually capable of. And thank you for sharing your life with all of us.

I will never stop asking why, I will never give up and I will never give in.

‘I will be forever grateful to Hawking for sparking off the journey that helped me to come to terms with myself’: Alexander, 26, student

I had no personal encounters with Stephen Hawking, but at a crucial juncture in my life, and without meaning to sound trite, I found him to be truly inspirational.

For the majority of my life I have struggled with mental illness. I had depression from a very early age, and had countenanced suicide on a number of occasions in my darkest moments. I then turned to drink and drugs in my late teens in order to self medicate my depression, which inevitably made it worse. Becoming clean and sober was terrifying for me, because it meant I had to grapple with my depression head on. I felt trapped by it, and it seemed like my only choices were death through drink and drugs, or a lifetime of clean and sober misery.

It was then I stumbled upon Hawking’s eloquent quote. “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” For someone like me this was a very powerful message.

Living with depression for so long convinced me that life was not worth living. For these words to come from a man who was afflicted with such a debilitating illness seemed extraordinary to me. I will be forever grateful to Hawking for uttering those words and sparking off the journey that helped me to come to terms with myself. I always took an interest in Hawking after that. And for all his great scientific achievements, it was his humanity that I most admired. I was shocked and bereft when I heard the news of his death.

The universe is a darker place without him.

‘Hopefully the new generation of young scientists will not forget his legacy and be inspired to continue his work’: Silvia Mallaschitz, 41, analyst

I discovered his books and work at a time where I had no real interests or direction in life. And while studying and working in a completely different field, the fascination with physics and the universe his books ignited, made me realise how much I truly don’t know. He was really the one who sparked my interest in studying physics on my own and read more and more about it.

His approach to making the masses easily understand even difficult topics with a lot of humour was amazing. Science needs more of such popular rock stars like he truly was. There’s a vast empty space left behind now, which will be very hard to fill. But hopefully the new generation of young scientists will not forget his legacy and be inspired to continue his work.

Every time I look up at the night sky, I’m very grateful to this man to make me think on a larger scale and discover every day the beauty of the universe around us.

Contributors

Carmen Fishwick and Guardian readers

The GuardianTramp

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