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.
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.