Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, his personal narrative twined with his intellectual accomplishments, was published in 1988. I read it midway through high school, probably in 1993. Shortly afterward, I read his book Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays when it was first released. Also during this time, I was reading books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1920), Richard Feynman’s The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Steven Weinberg’s The First Three Minutes (1977), John Gribbin’s In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat (1984), Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind (1989), and Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace (1994), Kip Thorne’s Black Holes & Time Warps (1994),  and many more. And, in parallel, I had gotten into reading science fiction from Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury. For me, Hawking’s cosmologies combined with science fictional imaginings were a tremendously powerful fuel feeding my incandescent wonder.

Probably in the 11th grade, my friend Marty Magda, who worked at the local Waldenbooks store, helped me track down Hawking and George Ellis’ The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (1973). It would be dishonest of me to say that I understood this tome, but I made an attempt using what was available to me at that time to learn how to cross each cognitive hurdle–library encyclopedias; popular science books; borrowed math books; newfangled CD-ROM resources, such as Groliers, Encarta, databases; a subscription to Physics Today; the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics; and A Physicist’s Desk Reference.

These intellectual explorations led me to want to earn a degree in Physics after graduating from high school. While my life veered away from physics except as an intellectual hobby, I am very glad that Hawking’s ideas and writing were and continue to be a part of me. He will be dearly missed.