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19 Mar 2018 11:49
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  •   Home > News > International

    Stephen Hawking: The world reacts to the death of the beloved physicist

    From colleagues to celebrities, the world reflects on the contributions physicist Stephen Hawking made to science and modern society, and share their personal stories.

    From scientists to celebrities to politicians to everyday people, the world is reeling from the news of physicist Stephen Hawking's death.

    Professor Peter Tuthill from the University of Sydney's School of Physics reflects on his first encounter with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University:

    "Riding home late on our bicycles, my mate crashed into Hawking's wheelchair — which he drove around at some speed in those days and with no lights — on the quiet streets at the "backs" of the river Cam.

    "This put both of them in hospital, and my friend on the front pages for all the wrong reasons.

    "It was not until much later in my career after that I began to appreciate just why Hawking was such a titan in physics, but also more broadly in culture and modern society.

    "While his contributions to deep questions in physics were profound, he also contributed to a wide array of extremely important contemporary debates and issues — things such as artificial intelligence, the building of a fair society, pitfalls and problems thrown up by disruptive technologies of tomorrow."

    Associate Professor Alan Duffy, lead scientist of The Royal Institution of Australia:

    "Professor Hawking was an inspiration to me to become not just a scientist, but a communicator of that science.

    "Through it all, of course, his illness made his achievements near-superhuman. How he manipulated Einstein's equations in his mind when he could no longer hold a pen I can't even begin to imagine.

    "While his many contributions will live on, there is no doubt that science and the wider world is the poorer for his passing."

    Professor Matthew Colless from The Australian National University had Professor Hawking as a lecturer on gravitational physics and black holes at Cambridge University:

    "He tended to wheel around the low dais at the front of the room while he delivered his pre-recorded lecture and a graduate student wrote equations on the blackboard.

    "One time he rolled too far and his wheelchair tipped over the edge, depositing him on the floor. While everyone rushed to pick him up and dust him off, he was busy tapping on his wheelchair keyboard.

    "When the lecture re-started he announced, in that instantly recognisable voice, 'I fell off the edge of the world'."

    President of the Astronomical Society of South Australia, Paul Haese:

    "A brilliant mind who gave so much both physically and conceptually has now left us. He will be missed amongst the amateur astronomical community."

    Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith from the CSIRO:

    "Hawking's most important scientific legacy is his idea that black holes slowly dissolve like aspirin in a glass of water," she said.

    "His impact on the public understanding of science is almost beyond measure.

    "He had an infectious enthusiasm for his work and a passion for making it understandable to a lay audience."

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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