One of Stephen Hawking’s greatest legacies was his study of black holes, and his death on Wednesday has, no doubt, left a cosmic void of equal magnitude that no amount of scientific rationalization can fill.
The celebrated theoretical physicist, who died at his home in Cambridge, England, at the age of 76, is revered as much for his work — his “theory of everything,” which posits a unifying connectivity to all physical elements in the universe, remains a touchstone — as for his triumph in overcoming a staggering, debilitating condition. Diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's Disease, in 1963 at the age of 21, he was given only a few years to live. He proved medicine wrong, eventually going on to author the seminal book A Brief History of Time and becoming arguably the world's most popular scientific mind since Albert Einstein.
The crushing duality of his life — a brilliant mind trapped in a feeble body that could not adequately contain its owner’s greatness — earned Hawking admirers in both the academy and among the general public.
In the wake of his death, those admirers have now taken to Twitter to honor a man whose genius explored the boundaries of physics even as his own indomitable spirit raged against, and transcended, the limits of his own physicality.