(Reuters/Kimberly White)

Remembering legendary physicist Stephen Hawking, in his own words

“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”


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Shira Tarlo
March 14, 2018 8:20pm (UTC)

Legendary physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He became a leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, as well as a symbol of human determination and curiosity.

As a graduate student at Oxford University in 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable degenerative neuromuscular disease, commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. Though he was only given a few years to live, Hawking beat all odds and became one of the most well-known scientists in the world.

The date of his death converges with Albert Einstein's birthday and Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π.

Hawking expanded the level of human understanding and leaves the world an appreciation for scientific discovery. In memory of the icon, here is a look at some of his most inspiring words:

1. "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

2. "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge."

3. "I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

4. "It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It's a crazy world out there. Be curious."

5. "One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away."

6. "The downside to my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away."

7. "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."

8. "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special."

9. "Life would be tragic if it weren't funny."

10. "Quiet people have the loudest minds."

11. "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

12. "My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."

13. "People won't have time for you if you are always angry of complaining."

14. "One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist . . . Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist."

15. "People who boast about their IQ are losers."

16. "The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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