One year ago, this day, the world lost one of its greatest ever scientific minds, the physicist who not only shaped the field of cosmology but also inspired the whole globe with his constant hard work despite suffering from a severe disease. A best-seller author, Stephen Hawking, was 76 years old when he left us all. He was suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a progressive neuro-degenerative disease since the age of 21.
Even after the loss of his speech, Hawkins was able to communicate through a speech-generating device, first with the use of hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.
Hawking’s relation with India was brief but relevant. In January 2001 Hawking came to India only for the second ever time for a tour of over two weeks. Hawking at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai addressed a seminar jointly organised by TIFR, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste and the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On the tour he was among the three recipients of the Sarojini Damodaran Fellowship awarded by TIFR during the “Strings 2001” conference.
Hawking delivered several lectures during the seminar, including one titled “The Universe in a Nutshell.”
The renowned scientist also met the then President of India, K R Narayanan, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“Indians are so good at mathematics and physics”, Hawkings had commented.
Hawking had told the President that he and his wife were enjoying their stay in India, though there have been great changes since his last visit in 1959.
After the 45-minute-long interaction the Indian President had called Hawking a “symbol of human hope and inspiration for all those who are handicapped in one way or the other”.
During his tour Hawking also delivered the Albert Einstein Lecture 2001 at the Siri Fort Auditorium. “If scientific determinism holds, we should in principle be able to predict the future,” Hawking had said.
The scientist had found his tour to India, “magnificent”!