Leader comment: Hawking was an inspirational scientist and human being

Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist achieved such global fame. Professor Stephen Hawking made profound contributions to our understanding of the universe, discoveries that will remain important for centuries to come, according to his contemporaries.

Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," he said.
Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," he said.

Commenting on his death, Lord Martin Rees, a Royal Society ex-president who studied with Hawking at Cambridge, said: “Few, if any, of Einstein’s successors have done more to deepen out insights into gravity, space and time.” In any discussion of his life, his brilliance as a scientist should always come first.

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Unlike many scientists, he was unafraid to be political. Trump was a “demagogue”; Brexit was a mistake because “gone are the days we could stand on our own against the world”; and the NHS was a life-saver. Only in January, he joined campaigners against NHS privatisation in taking Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to court.

But while he could be serious, he also had a sense of humour. He was not afraid to be the butt of the joke on TV comedy The Big Bang Theory, he because a Simpsons cartoon character, and Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in The Theory of Everything, described him as “the funniest man” he’d ever met.

On several fronts, the death of this shining star of a human being leaves the world a less brilliant place.