5 Lessons We Learned From Stephen HawkingLast Updated by Gray Williams on October 23, 2018
Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest scientists to ever live, passed away. While his loss is significant for the world, we have many important lessons we can learn from the hardships he faced early in his life to the disease he lived with and his passion for following his dreams.
Whether it is his academic and professional achievements as a physicist, cosmologist, and author, or his personal struggle, he has inspired many people. Here are five lessons we can learn from his life.
1. Put Your Passions First
Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a motor neuron disease, at the young age of 21. Despite the disease being fatal three years after diagnosis, Hawking defied doctors and lived to the age of 76. He became steadily paralyzed and was confined to a wheelchair early on. Despite this, he continued to work with a drive and passion that most people never experience. In the face of his disease, he managed to remain positive and focus on what mattered to him most.
2. Work Hard to Achieve Greatness
Believe it or not, Hawking was an average student. He only learned how to read at the age of 8. Even later in life, when he was at Oxford University, he admitted to being lazy with messy handwriting and untidy class work.
Hawking is the proof that if you choose to work hard, you can achieve great things. Anyone who started out slowly in life should find comfort from Hawking in the lesson that being a late bloomer does not condemn you to mediocrity.
3. Reach for the Stars
In 2007, with the help of serial entrepreneur, Peter Diamandis, Hawking achieved his lifelong dream of experiencing zero gravity. Despite FAA disapproval, Hawking boarded one of Diamandis’ Zero-G planes allowing him to break free of his wheelchair and experience physical freedom.
On a more figurative level, Hawking reached the level of other stars in the science world to whom he was compared. It was well-known that he held the same chair at Cambridge University as Isaac Newton once did and he was born on the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo – January 8, 1942, but in an interesting twist of fate, he died on the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth – March 14.
4. Relativity and Quantum Theory
Together with fellow physicist, Roger Penrose, Hawking merged two famous scientific theories – Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory, suggesting that space and time begin with the Big Bang and end with black holes.
He stated on more than one occasion that his goal in life was to have a complete understanding of the universe and why it exists. Their focus specifically on black holes led Dr. Penrose to propose the hypothesis known as “cosmic censorship” – as Hawking stated, singularities must be “decently hidden” in a place where physicists and other people are not able to see them.
Hawking spent much of his time focusing on space, believing that for a long-term future, humans would need to learn to live in space.
5. Viruses and Internet Security
Hawking was quoted in Der Spiegel in 1988 as saying “I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life that we have created so far is purely destructive.” Reading these words will make you thankful you have a VPN, which protects your internet connection, reducing the risk of virus invasion.
While he referred to viruses as a form of life created by humans, when it came to intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, Hawking was skeptical that humans would ever make that discovery. In fact, he said that the discovery of intelligent life in the universe would be the most significant scientific discovery to date.
While Hawking is no longer on this earth and will not be able to make any more contributions to science, he has left behind a wealth of knowledge, inspiration and life lessons. His greatest gifts come not only from his academic work but also from his ability to overcome his personal struggles throughout his life.