Hawking also had a lighter side, and while many of us think of scientists as stuffy and dry, he was anything but. Sarcastic and quite funny, Hawking was a frequent guest on multiple TV shows, including The Simpsons, Futurama and The Big Bang Theory.
Hawking appeared with Springfield’s favourite family on multiple occasions. He once caused a riot by punching Principal Skinner and then absconding in a helicopter, he jokingly found Homer’s theory that the universe was doughnut-shaped “intriguing,” and at one point he even tried to teach Bart about black holes (to no avail).
Al Jean, executive producer of The Simpsons, honoured Hawking’s sense of humour and posted a picture of his action figure.
The Big Bang Theory
Hawking frequently guested on The Big Bang Theory, and even when he wasn’t physically present on the show, he was mentioned by fellow scientist Sheldon (Jim Parsons) on numerous occasions. When the pair first met (in the video, above), Hawking shot down Sheldon’s thesis, pointing out a mathematical error right off the bat.
The entire cast bid farewell in a tribute tweet.
Series star Johnny Galecki posted his own goodbye to his Instagram page, as did his costar, Mayim Bialik.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
An absolutely iconic episode in Star Trek canon, Hawking appeared in a Holo-deck poker game with Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Data sought to play against the greatest scientific minds in recent history, including Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton.
As with The Simpsons, Hawking was featured in multiple episodes of this sci-fi animated series. In one episode, he teamed up with Al Gore, and was eventually left floating in a void playing Dungeons & Dragons for eons. He even had a tiny cameo in the Futurama movie The Beast With a Billion Backs as a head in a jar.
The recent movie The Theory of Everything, which followed Hawking’s fascinating life, was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and its lead, Eddie Redmayne, took home the Best Actor Oscar for his depiction of Hawking.
“We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet,” said Redmayne in a statement. “My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”
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Felicity Jones, who played Hawking’s wife Jane in Theory, said in a statement, “So sad to hear of Stephen’s death. Stephen Hawking pushed the boundaries of who we are and what we believe. An extraordinary human who could bring humour to the most despairing moments and find hope in the unknown. He showed the world that anything is possible. My thoughts are with his wonderful family in this difficult time.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the physicist in BBC TV movie Hawking across the pond, had nothing but accolades for him.
“I was so sad to hear that Stephen died,” he said. “I send my heartfelt love and condolences to all his family and colleagues. I feel so lucky to have known such a truly great man whose profundity was found both in his work and the communication of that work. Both in person and in books.”
“He virtually created the publishing genre of popular science,” Cumberbatch continued. “A heroic feat to bring the wondrous complexities of the universe to all outside of specialists in this field. But truly courageous when considering it was achieved by a man who lived a life trapped in his body from the age of 21 when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.”
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted his condolences early Wednesday.
Star George Takei also posted a tribute, calling him one of the “greatest minds of our species.”
Countless other celebrities posted their condolences to social media.
Of course, NASA paid tribute to Hawking, whose contributions to humanity’s understanding of space are immeasurable.
Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1963 at age 21, Hawking went on to win numerous awards for his research in theoretical physics. He stunned doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years. A severe attack of pneumonia in 1985 left him breathing through a tube, forcing him to communicate through an electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his distinctive robotic monotone.
But he defied all odds, continued his scientific work, became a pop-culture figure, and married for a second time.
Hawking achieved worldwide fame when his book, A Brief History of Time, became a worldwide bestseller and sold 10 million copies.
— With files from The Associated Press