Tributes have begun to pour in for the late physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who died at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Known for his ground-breaking work in cosmology, as well as defying the odds after being given just a few years to live when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, he is survived by his three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim. Diagnosed aged 21, he lived until the age of 76. The Motor Neurone Disease Association has reported that their website has crashed due to the influx of donations.
An academic who transitioned into becoming a figure in popular culture, he had guest starring roles on TV shows such as The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, inspiring the title of the latter. He was famously portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in a film about his relationship with first wife Jane, The Theory of Everything, which earned the actor an Academy Award for Best Actor.
While Hawking’s lasting legacy is undoubtedly in the field of cosmology, and particularly in his best-selling book A Brief History of Time, he should also be remembered for being a confirmed feminist, telling Piers Morgan as much during an interview last year.
When asked by the Good Morning Britain presenter if the fact that five of the most powerful people in the UK – the Queen, Prime Minister, Scottish First Minister, Home Secretary and Met Police Commissioner – are women was ‘scientific evidence’ of gender equality, Hawking gave his own views on the issue.
‘It is not scientific proof of gender equality that is required, but general acceptance that women are at least the equals of men, or better,’ he replied. ‘This is coming. If we factor in high-powered women in Europe as well, such as Angela Merkel, it seems we are witnessing a seismic shift for women to accede to high-level positions in politics and society. I welcome these signs of women’s liberation. But there may still be a gap between those women achieving high public status and those in the private sector.'
When asked if he was a feminist, Hawking replied: ‘Yes, I have always supported women’s rights. I moved the admission of women to my college, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. The results were wholly good.’