Stephen Hawking once said: “If I had to choose a superhero to be, I would pick Superman. He’s everything that I’m not.”
It was his self-deprecating way of discussing his life, 55 years of which was spent in a wheelchair with a debilitating and rare disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
When he died yesterday, though, it could be said that Stephen Hawking was truly a Superman. As though he had superpowers, he triumphed over the strictures on his body and his mind roamed free across the universe.
In the process, he became one of the world’s best-known scientists and his seminal work, A Brief History of Time, helped bring the complexities of physics closer to ordinary people.
A scientific rock star, he even made cameo appearances in a Star Trek movie and on TV shows The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory. He motivated more than one generation of youngsters to take up science because he made it seem cool.
At the same time, though, he was an inspiration to others with disabilities, telling them: “Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
His message to humankind – “however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at” – will live on.