What is Stephen Hawking's legacy?
Europe's media are profoundly saddened by the death of Stephen Hawking. The 76-year-old astrophysicist passed away on Tuesday night. Journalists mourn a genius who was able to explain the universe in a way that made it accessible to everyone and who impressed the world with his battle against ALS - and his humanity.
Farewell to a star
A genuine superstar has died, Novi list laments:
“In the scientific world Hawking was known for his progressive theories on the origins of the universe and black holes. But for the general public the paralysed scientist who was obliged to communicate with the world through a speech-generating device was the ultimate symbol of the invincibility of human intelligence. His sense of humour, his desire for new experiences such as weightlessness and his readiness to comment on social phenomena all combined to give him the status of a scientific superstar. That made Hawking part of popular culture, immortalised in series like the Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, or the film version of his biography.”
Popular and rigorous
The extraordinary astrophysicist remains a role model after his death, El Mundo consoles readers:
“Hawking brought astrophysics down from its unreachable pedestal and made it accessible to the general public, without betraying the rigour of a top scientist. Displaying remarkable charisma without leaving his chair and talking through a speech synthesiser, he focussed his efforts on fighting the corporate prejudice according to which popularising science inevitably leads to its devaluation. And he was proven right. Countless scientists discovered their calling through Hawking's books and conferences. He remains a thrilling example of the ability to overcome all obstacles and of an indomitable love of knowledge.”
A great mind in a weak body
His decades-long, open battle with ALS is also part of Hawking's legacy, Wiener Zeitung notes:
“The images we retain of his fight to lead an autonomous life have very likely done more for the inviolability of human dignity in all its frailty than many well-meant appeals and campaigns. Like Pope John Paul II, who staged his own demise for all to see, Hawking too communicated to our society the knowledge that even a weak body can harbour a great mind. At a time when so much is being invested in having a flawless outer appearance, this accomplishment is on a par with his scientific achievements.”
Beyond fairy tales
Hawking's legacy also lies in his seeking the truth beyond the realm of myth and religious conviction, Politis writes:
“Hawking didn't believe in life after death. Heaven is 'a fairy story for people afraid of the dark', he once said. All that we have to say and do we should say and do in this life, with our eyes open and our heads clear, he believed. And that is exactly what Stephen did. He lived on earth but he occupied himself with the stars and bombarded them with questions.”