How would you react if you were told that you had motor neuron disease (ALS) at the age of twenty and had just a few years to live? That was Stephen Hawking in 1963. Yet, not only is he still alive in 2014, but he revolutionized physics for half a century. Stephen Hawking is an inspiration because he transformed our understanding of the universe. He has also succeeded in making science popular as witnessed by his best selling book A Brief History of Time. To say that Stephen Hawking’s life and work has been a success is an understatement. Here are 8 lessons from his extraordinary life and achievements that can inspire us.
1. He has used technology to overcome his disability
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking
As Prof. Hawking explains in the video below, the power of technology to transform lives, communicate ideas which lead to great discoveries is truly astounding. In his own case, he cannot speak and uses a voice synthesizer as we hear on this video. He has made extensive use of computer technology and the Internet in his research. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKh7DqtHtr4
2. He refused to let his disability halt his research
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” – Stephen Hawking
Just after he had been diagnosed and with a only a few years to live, according to his doctors, he fell in love and married Jane Wilde. They had three children. During the same period, he flung himself into his work and research as a physicist. He was determined that his disability was not going to be an obstacle.
“Theoretical physics is one of the few fields in which being disabled is no handicap – it is all in the mind.”- Stephen Hawking.
3. He is always curious
“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”- Stephen Hawking
Hawking once remarked that he has a childlike curiosity in that he is always asking questions with ‘why’ and ‘how’. A perfect example of this is his desire to travel in space.
4. He has never lost his sense of humor
“Keeping an active mind has been vital to my survival, as has been maintaining a sense of humor.”-Stephen Hawking.
He has always joked about his zany appearances in The Simpsons, Futurama, Stargate Atlantis and The Fairly Oddparents and Star Trek. Watch the video with John Oliver where his great sense of humor is very evident.
5. He stands by his principles
“No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before.” – Stephen Hawking
During his lifetime, Stephen Hawking has been concerned about the lack of funding and mismanagement of funding for scientific research and education in the UK. When he was offered a knighthood, he turned it down on principle.
6. He never gives up
“It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.” – Stephen Hawking
Just a few months ago, Stephen Hawking released a new study on the nature of black holes which has puzzled scientists since the early 20th century. He is determined not to give up in spite of criticism and controversy. This will not stop him and it is an inspiration for everyone striving for success.
7. He values time as a precious resource
“I have so much that I want to do. I hate wasting time.” – Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is famous for his research on the definition and nature of time and how time began. He concludes his study on time by remarking that it will be impossible to turn back the clock. The message is clear that we can make money but never get back our time, so we should use it wisely.
8. He shares his knowledge
“I hope I have helped to raise the profile of science and to show that physics is not a mystery but can be understood by ordinary people.” – Stephen Hawking
Hawking firmly believes that knowledge is to be shared. His ambition was that his books would be widely read and that they would be available at airport bookstalls. That wish has certainly come true as witnessed by the enormous success of his books. The credit is all due to him because he has succeeded in making astrophysics and artificial intelligence accessible to everyone, not just for intellectuals and scientists. He always tells the story that his publisher warned him that equations and formulae in his books would put people off and that his readership would be reduced by 50% for every equation in the book. That is why there is only one, E = mc², in A Brief History of Time. But one equation did not stop 10 million people from buying it! There is a lesson there for all of us. If we do not share our knowledge by communicating it clearly and effectively, we are losing a golden opportunity