The passing of Stephen Hawking in March of this year left many in our community mourning the loss of an icon, a hero and a role model. Hawking was recognized throughout the world as one of the greatest scientists of any generation, and his contributions are likely to have far-reaching implications in the future.
He became a true hero to the limited-mobility community not only because of what he achieved in his field but also how he inspired others to strive beyond their physical limits and develop a limitless mentality even in restricting circumstances. Four key takeaways from his life of accomplishment serve as a reminder of us all that we are never defined by our limitations.
Raw imagination is literally the stuff dreams are made of. The ability to free your mind to take in all possibilities and envision things clearly without having direct experience is one of the hallmarks of a genius. Throughout his life, Stephen Hawking put that power to work. Harnessing the limitless potential of imagination, he began to fill in the gaps that hundreds of years of human research had left unexplored. These gaps in our knowledge of the stars, galaxies and the cosmos at large began to narrow, and the expansive power of imagination continues to fuel other discoveries among scientists of all ages who read and experience Hawking’s work.
The tool that sculpts the raw clay of imagination is creativity. We all-too-often associate creativity with the arts instead of the sciences, but Hawking challenged this perception as well. Using his creative mind, he saw the links between various theories and bound them into cohesive packages, making it easy for others to understand what his boundless imagination had conceived. He fostered amazing breakthroughs in assistive technology, not just for his own good, but so that others could benefit from them as well. His creations inspired others to re-envision everything from talk-to-text to stair-climbing wheelchairs. Hawking’s creativity remains one of his greatest gifts to both arts and sciences.
Never content to rest or accept bad news at face value, Stephen Hawking adopted the habits of highly productive people. When he wasn’t able to get out and study or writing new papers, he teamed up with his daughter, Lucy, to pen books that explained the secrets of the cosmos to children. Using the vocabularies and images of specific audiences made his massive knowledge accessible to all, and this type of resourcefulness pervades Hawking’s works. He knew how to phrase things in just the right way, drawing on all the tools at his disposal to share information with people across the globe.
Ultimately, it’s the sheer will to see things through that ensured the words and works of Stephen Hawking will be preserved as an international treasure. No negative diagnosis, emotional turmoil or physical limitation could stop the juggernaut that was born of the thoughts and discoveries of this high-profile legend. His disease progressed much more slowly than it does for many, and not a few have noted it may be because of the man’s steel will and raw determination.
In his own words, “Concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” Remember the words and life of Stephen Hawking, and let those thoughts motivate you to keep moving forward with your own dreams at your own pace.