It has been a glorious time to be alive…

These words would seem an incredible irony from a man confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, yet Professor Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at age 21 (and told he had only two years to live!), was renowned for his courage and persistence, as well as an incredible sense of humour.

Professor Hawking died yesterday at his home in Cambridge, UK, and with his passing the world lost probably its most eminent scientist.

In another of those strange twists of fate, he passed away on Albert Einstein’s birthday, a date that will now forever link two of the greatest minds of the modern era.

This Is What Stephen Hawking Has To Say To College Students 1

I remember reading Stephen Hawking’s definitive quantum physics book A Brief History of Time. Never have I felt so out of depth in trying to grasp concepts, even though the book was written specifically for the layman. I’ve heard the term “mental vertigo” used to describe the effect some of the theories have on the first-time reader. The book stayed on the best-seller list for over 230 weeks after its publication in 1988, and has since sold over 10 million copies.

The formula below, derived by Hawking himself, measures emissions from black holes known as Hawking Radiation. It was pretty much when maths began being comprised mainly of letters and symbols that I started realising I wasn’t very good at it, yet minds like the professor’s are somehow built to comprehend things outside the normal sphere of human understanding. Hawking was adamant that he would like this formula carved on his tombstone!

Hawking Equation

Minds like Hawking’s may only come around once or twice in our lifetimes. What set him apart though was his incredible humanity. His resilience in the face of what for most would be unimaginable adversity. In 1985 he nearly died from pneumonia, and it was only a tracheotomy that allowed him to continue breathing without the use of a ventilator, but at the same time removed his ability to speak. To continue researching and pursuing his life’s work in such circumstances, while still maintaining his irrepressible sense of humour, is to me a far more endearing side of his spirit than his sheer genius.

Despite being on what was clearly a higher plane of intelligence, many of Hawking’s quotes reveal that he was still wonderfully human:

It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love…

Stephen Hawking Jovem

Whilst sitting under a winter’s sky at Londolozi, staring up at the cosmos, one can’t help but be awed by its unimaginable scope and size. The mind boggles. You simply sit and stare, knowing that what you are looking it is just too vast, too grand and ultimately too complicated to do more with than simply appreciate its majesty and beauty.
Yet Stephen Hawking would have been calculating, imagining, observing, and seeking answers…

Professor Stephen Hawking, despite his beloved universe seemingly conspiring against him to make his life as difficult to live as one could imagine, saw his trials through with ultimate grace, humour and compassion, and did what all people should ultimately aspire to do; he left the world a better place.

Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
Be curious.
However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
It matters that you don’t just give up.

Filed under Featured Life

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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on A Tribute to Stephen Hawking: 1942 – 2018

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Lisa Hilger

I’ve heard many people say the world lost an amazing mind when Dr. Hawking passed; you say so eloquently the world lost an amazing man.

Ginger Brucker

Well said.

Marinda Drake

Lovely tribute. The world is poorer with the loss of this briliant mind.

Lucie Easley

Thanks for this tribute to a man whose mind I cannot comprehend but whose humanity, sense of humor, and courage I will admire forever. He taught us so much more than science. He is one with the stars now.

Jeff Rodgers

No words to add what you have written. Tonight we all need to look up at the stars.

Jennifer Ridgewell

James thank you for such a beautifully expressed tribute to this amazing human being, Stephen Hawking. The quotation you included is one we should all reflect upon.

Bruce Robertson

That is an inspiring and wonderfully human tribute to Stephen Hawking – thank you James.

Eusebio Manuel


Gillian Lacey

The quote “look up at the stars not down at your feet” just about sums up everything in life.
I don’t pretend to even understand a miniscule amount of the Professors theories but there aren’t many people who can be considered as being truly remarkable but Professor Hawking was definitely one of them.

Denise Vouri

Thank you for taking the time to pay tribute to Stephen Hawking. He had not only a brilliant mind, but lived his complicated life with grace, dignity and certainly a sense of humor. He will be missed.

Mj Bradley

What a beautiful eulogy! My husband was fortunate enough to have attended one of Professor Hawkings talks. He talked about that for months. I am fortunate to share my life with a scientist and a lover of astronomy, he tried very hard over the years to explain to me what it all meant but, my poor brain is not wired that way.. He will be sorely missed. My wish is that right now, at this moment in time, is another young man who will follow in the footsteps of the great scientist and take us places we never imagined.

Michael Kalm

Hey James,
It’s not enough that you are one of the most amazingly skilled photographers i have come across, Now you reveal yourself as a gifted spiritual poet? Your remembrance of Stephen Hawking is among the best I have come across. I’ll keep yours and the New York Times as a pair.
Best regards,

James Tyrrell

Hi Michael,
Thanks very much for the kind words!
Best regards,

Callum Evans

Such a beautiful tribute to one of the most incredible humans of our time. He somehow never gave up, and kept on fighting.

Wendy Hawkins

Beautiful tribute James, thank you

Ginger Brucker

Beautiful Tribute!

Elizabeth Williams

Reading these stories for probably a year now, I have been fasinated & I look forward to a new each day but this tribute to Stephen Hawking was beautiful and touching it makes you evaluate life.

Michael & Terri Klauber

James, Thanks for the reminder that we all have so much to be thankful for!!!

Melanie Samantha

I too am stirred by James’ note on Professor Hawking. The morning on which news broke of his death, I was at the hospital with Tom who had broken a finger in a nasty and complete spiral fracture. We were both extra-glum at the thought of the inconvenience this could pose if it didn’t heal properly by the time we are next at Londolozi in May! And then to hear, with profound sadness of Professor Hawking’s passing, being recalled yet again to the transcendent and inspirational power of his intellect and spirit, despite the limitations of his inert body….
Well, it surely put a broken finger right into perspective!
Thank you James for your tribute. It stands out like one of the brightest jewels in a star-studded African sky.

James Tyrrell

Thanks Melanie,

I agree with you completely, in that perspective is what it’s all about….

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