I’ve photographed Stephen Hawking a few times over the years but this is the image which came to mind on Wednesday morning when I heard the new of his death.
This is the wall opposite the lift, a few metres from his office door. Years and years and years of meeting obstacles caused by his disability – and battering on through.
In a different era, he wouldn’t have survived, or he wouldn’t have been able to communicate and collaborate over a long career. The fact that he was able to do this was down to his family, his academic colleagues at DAMTP, the University of Cambridge and in the wide mathematical community, the teams of doctors and carers from the NHS and beyond, and the technologists who constantly innovated to keep him mobile and able to communicate despite his profound disability.
I didn’t know him personally, but I count many of them as friends, and I’m thinking of them – and the amazing things they did to enable his genius to be expressed.
Carl Sagan said “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.” Once or twice in a generation, that star stuff comes together and moves things forward in a fundamental way. RIP Professor Hawking.