A tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018

March 2018
Professor Stephen Hawking.

Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s greatest scientists, has died today aged 76.

Professor Hawking recently joined us at an event to celebrate the legacy of his father, Dr Frank Hawking, who developed some of the first treatments for the neglected tropical disease lymphatic filariasis.

Professor Hawking chose physics rather than biology as his field, and he will be remembered for advancing our understanding of how the universe works and how it came to be.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his early 20s and was given only years to live. But he delighted in saying that although the doctors may have given up on him, he and his family didn’t.

Writing for the United Nations in 2014, he said: “People with disabilities are vulnerable because of the many barriers we face: attitudinal, physical, and financial. Addressing these barriers is within our reach and we have a moral duty to do so. Beyond that moral duty, we would do well to remember the many other reasons to act. Legislation introduced to assist the disabled today will benefit nearly everyone at some point: almost all of us will be impaired at some time in life or care for someone who is. Inventions such as optical character recognition and brain-controlled technology have many other benefits beyond helping people with disabilities.

“But, most importantly, addressing these barriers will unlock the potential of so many people with so much to contribute to the world. Governments everywhere can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education, and employment – and never get the chance to shine.”

Sightsavers CEO Dr Caroline Harper said: “This is such sad news and our thoughts are with his family and carers. Professor Hawking was one of the most original and brilliant minds of our times. His vision, wisdom and humour will be greatly missed, but he leaves an inspiring personal legacy, as well as a huge contribution to our knowledge of the cosmos.”

Watch Professor Hawking's speech from Sightsavers’ NTD event in December 2017.