Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 21, and many doctors didn’t think he’d survive more than a few years. However, he defied the odds. He inspired the world with his work and teachings on space, time, and the universe. The theoretical physicist passed away at the age of 76 years old. Here’s 10 incredible quotes from the director of research, founder of the Centre for Theorestical Cosmology at Cambridge, and author of A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking.
1. On Disabilities
“If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well. In my opinion, one should concentrate on activities in which one’s physical disability will not present a serious handicap. I am afraid that Olympic Games for the disabled do not appeal to me, but it is easy for me to say that because I never liked athletics anyway. On the other hand, science is a very good area for disabled people because it goes on mainly in the mind. Of course, most kinds of experimental work are probably ruled out for most such people, but theoretical work is almost ideal. My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in. I have managed, however, only because of the large amount of help I have received from my wife, children, colleagues and students. I find that people in general are very ready to help, but you should encourage them to feel that their efforts to aid you are worthwhile by doing as well as you possibly can.” — From “Handicapped People and Science,” Science Digest 92, No. 9, September 1984
2. On Science Versus Religion
“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, science, which is based on observation and reason,” Hawking told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2010. “Science will win, because it works.” But his work wasn’t all dry rationality. “Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion,” he told PARADE magazine in 2010.
3. Advice He Gave His Children
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” Hawking gave this now-famous piece of advice to his three children Lucy, Robert and Tim and related it in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2010. Included in those words of advice were: “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” And: “if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
4. On Black Holes
‘Einstein was wrong when he said, ‘God does not play dice’. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen’ – The Nature Of Space And Time, published 1996.
5. On The Possibility Of Contact Between Humans And Aliens
‘I think it would be a disaster. The extraterrestrials would probably be far in advance of us. The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think we should keep our heads low’ – In Naked Science: Alien Contact, The National Geographic Channel, 2004.
6. On Fame
‘The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognised. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away’ – Interview on Israeli TV, December 2006.
“They are a complete mystery,” he said in an interview with The New Scientist magazine in 2012, having confessed to having spent most of his 70th birthday thinking not about the wonders of the cosmos, but about women.
8. On Human Potential
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special,” Hawking told German paper Der Spiegel in 1988. He often spoke about space exploration and the extent of human potential.
9.On Climate Change
I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph in 2011. “But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.” In recent years, Hawking spoke and wrote about the dangers posed by climate change and the frailties of planet Earth.