Stephen Hawking a 'genius of Nobel Prize calibre'
Sunday 08 January 2012
Stephen Hawking is a "genius of Nobel Prize calibre" who has done
more to popularise physics than anybody else, Professor Brian Cox said.
Speaking as Prof Hawking celebrates his 70th birthday today, Prof Cox said: "In terms of popularising physics, I wouldn't be doing what I do now were it not for him."
Prof Cox added: "I was 20 and in a band when he published A Brief History Of Time.
"I was fascinated by physics and it was one of the few books around at the time which really addressed that fascination.
"He was a big influence on me, as he was on anyone of that age who was interested in physics."
Prof Cox, best known for presenting BBC science programmes and for his work on the Large Hadron Collider, said the only person who rivalled Prof Hawking in terms of popular appeal was American physicist Richard Feynman.
He added: "Stephen is one of only a handful of people in this field - whom I do not count myself among - who are genuine Nobel Prize contenders.
"He also realises that it is not just our job to 'do' physics but to explain it as it is something which fascinates people."
While recognising that Prof Hawking's condition, a form of motor neurone disease, was part of his public image, Prof Cox said it was not integral to his popularity.
He added: "A Brief History Of Time was published before people knew who Stephen was and was successful on its own merits.
"However, if you spoke to Stephen himself, he would say that he considered himself a fairly average scientist whose condition provided an opportunity to focus on his work.
"One thing he told me was that he spends a great amount of time theorising as he gets in and out of the bath, simply because it takes so long."
Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College Cambridge, also paid tribute to Prof Hawking.
He said: "When I first met Stephen Hawking we were both research students and it was thought that he might not live long enough even to finish his PhD degree.
"But, amazingly, he has reached the age of 70. Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he hasn't merely survived.
"He has become arguably the most famous scientist in the world - acclaimed for his brilliant researches, for his best-selling books, and, above all, for his astonishing triumph over adversity.
"Astronomers are used to large numbers. But few numbers could be as large as the odds I'd have given, back in 1964 when Stephen received his 'death sentence', against ever celebrating this uniquely inspiring crescendo of achievement."
Lord Rees said that "the concept of an imprisoned mind roaming the cosmos" had grabbed the public imagination.
But he added: "His fame should not overshadow his scientific contributions because even though most scientists are not as famous as he is, he has undoubtedly done more than anyone else since Einstein to improve our knowledge of gravity and he is one of the top ten living theoretical physicists."
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...
£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...
£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...