RIP Stephen Hawking

May we all inhabit a small bit of his universe

If there’s anything that we can take from the life of Stephen Hawking, who died on Tuesday at age 76, it’s that quite anything is possible. The theoretical physicist’s work and discoveries in the realms of quantum mechanics and black holes are anything short of groundbreaking, though most of us can freely admit they’re beyond our understanding. What we do understand, however, is that great minds like Hawking push the boundaries of what we know our world to be. They remind young scientists that there is still plenty to be discovered, that we must never stop questioning and theorizing.

Hawking’s life itself was improbable. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease when he was 21 years old and doctors didn’t expect him to live past 25. He showed them. His mind persisted while his body failed him, and even when he became unable to speak nearly 30 years ago, he carried on, penning books and challenging theories, even participating in pop culture through appearances on shows ranging from Star Trek to The Simpsons to, more recently, The Big Bang Theory.

In reading through some of the countless tributes to Hawking that began flooding the internet following news of his death, we came upon this quote credited to the man himself. It seems particularly poignant as we reflect on his life, which was defined by his will for survival and ability to adapt to his surroundings: “We are all different, but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it’s human nature that we adapt and survive.”

May we all yearn to possess at least a little of what Hawking saw as human nature, plus his sense of humor and never-ending curiosity.