The widely acclaimed, world-renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, who overcame the debilitating effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) for most of his life, died peacefully in his Cambridge home at the age of 76 on March 14, 2018, according to his family. When he was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21, he was estimated to live only two more years.
Hawking is widely known for his contributions to general relativity, quantum mechanics and mathematics, his best-selling cosmology-focused book “A Brief History of Time,” among a multitude of other achievements.
However, a footnote about Hawking that many may not be familiar with was that in 2012 he signed a letter to the British government to pardon fellow mathematician and scientific innovator Alan Turing. In 1952, Turing was found guilty of homosexuality, which the British government called “gross indecency” at the time, and was chemically castrated as punishment, despite Turing’s invaluable contributions in theoretical computer science that helped win Word War II. Turing committed suicide not long after his castration at the age of 41.
“We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today,” the letter stated. “It is time his reputation was unblemished.”
One year after the letter was sent, the Queen pardoned Turing. The pardon also affected nearly 49,000 men who were affected by the anti-gay law.
Hawking was also a champion for other liberal-minded causes such as protesting the Vietnam War in the 1960s and calling the Iraq War a “war crime.”
He was also a supporter of universal health care. When he was diagnosed with ALS as a young man, he was dependent on the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. (NHS)
“I would not be here without the NHS,” Hawking said in a speech last year concerning the topic of conservative attacks against the program.
Through his life’s actions, Hawking embraced the sentiments of his own words: “We are all different, but we share the same human spirit.”