Stephen Hawking died on Wednesday. He may be the most famous scientist since Albert Einstein. Hawking was known for his ideas about black holes, his books, and for working even though he could not move his body. He was 76.
Many people know who Stephen Hawking was, even if they don’t know anything about science. He was famous for leading a very active life, even though he was paralyzed, meaning he could not move his body. As a child and young adult, Hawking had a normal, active life. He could walk, run, ride bikes, and row boats. But when he was 21, doctors told Hawking that he was sick. He had an illness called ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). The doctors told him he would die in a few years. Bit by bit his muscles got weaker until he could only move his fingers. Later on Hawking also lost his voice and could not move anything except his cheek muscles.
But Hawking never gave up. He kept working hard. He used a wheelchair. He learned to use a computer to speak his ideas out loud. He did not do experiments, but worked on ideas in his head. The ideas could be explained with math. He gave speeches to big groups of scientists. He also wrote many popular books. One of his books sold over 10 million copies.
Stephen Hawking’s ideas can be hard to understand. Most people understand that gravity is a force that pulls. Scientists used to think that black holes were places in space that had so much gravity that nothing could ever escape. But Hawking showed that small bits, called particles, could escape from black holes. This was a very important idea. Hawking also thought about other big ideas, like the beginning of time and the beginning of the universe. Scientists have been using Hawking’s ideas to understand the universe better. Some scientists say that people will still be talking about Stephen Hawking’s ideas 1,000 years from now.
Hawking was also famous for being funny. It was hard for him to make his computer talk, but he often surprised people by making it tell a joke. Hawking was a guest star on TV comedy shows such as The Simpsons, Futurama, and Big Bang Theory. Hawking said he wanted people to see that they didn’t need to be limited by what their bodies could do. He lived for 55 years after doctors told him he might die soon.
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