The pioneering work of physicist Stephen Hawking is honored in a Google Doodle today (Jan. 8), including a video with Hawking's quotes concerning everything from cosmology to disability.
On what would have been Hawking's 80th birthday, the cosmologist was cited not only with his work in probing the fate of the universe and the nature of black holes, but also his quick wit, his ability to engage popular audiences around the world, and his living example to people with disabilities.
"Today’s video Doodle celebrates one of history’s most influential scientific minds, English cosmologist, author, and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking," Google said in a statement about the Doodle, which was created by Matthew Cruickshank.
"From colliding black holes to the Big Bang," Google added, "his theories on the origins and mechanics of the universe revolutionized modern physics while his best-selling books made the field widely accessible to millions of readers worldwide."
Stephen William Hawking was born in England on Jan. 8, 1942, 300 years to the day after the death of the astronomer Galileo Galilei. While studying cosmology (or the universe's history and composition) in 1963 at the University of Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Hawking, then just under 21 years old, was only expected to live two more years, but he completed his doctorate in 1965 and continued his work at Cambridge. Just nine years later, Hawking discovered that particles could escape black holes. The 1974 discovery of Hawking radiation "is widely considered his most important contribution to physics," Google said of the scientist.
In 1979, Hawking was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the most famous academic chair in the world. His career work also covered aspects of the ending of the universe, as well as Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.
Hawking eventually shifted his activities to a wheelchair, and in 1985, lost his speech due to an emergency tracheometry. For the rest of his career, a speech-generating device made at Cambridge, along with a software program, became his electronic voice. (Hawking picked the words he wanted to use, using muscles in his cheek.)
You can hear Hawking's now-famous voice in a YouTube video (Google owns YouTube) accompanying the Google Doodle, which replays some of the cosmologist's most notable phrases. One of the included quotes is his pithy observation of how his life turned out: "My expectations were reduced to zero at 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."
Later in his career, Hawking authored numerous popular books and appeared frequently in the media, including appearances on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a cameo on the television show "Big Bang Theory."
Hawking died at his Cambridge home on March 14, 2018, at the age of 76. "His courage and persistence, with his brilliance and humour, inspired people across the world," children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement at the time.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace