On March 14, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking died in his Cambridge home at the age of 76.
Best known for his contributions to science, Hawking managed to find the time over the course of his long and illustrious professional career to make a lasting imprint on the world of pop culture -- and his various appearances on TV shows throughout the years have become particularly legendary for both science geeks and culture nerds alike. For many viewers, Hawking's surprise cameos wound up becoming their first introduction to the brilliant mind.
In honor of the legendary scientist, we're listing some of his best (and nerdiest) pop culture cameos.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Hawking became the first Trek guest star to essentially play himself in an episode of The Next Generation, titled "Descent." Hawking landed a role on the series after word got out to none other than Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, that he was a huge Trekkie. Cut to TNG and you can watch a scene of Hawking starring as a holographic version of himself playing poker with the android Commander Data (Brent Spiner), as well as other brilliant scientific minds like Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton - proof that sometimes, it pays to geek out about things.
Hawking made lots of appearances in cartoon form over the years, several of them in the sci-fi comedy series Futurama. In the season two episode "Anthology of Interest I," Hawking is a member of the Vice Presidential Action Rangers (along with fellow members Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax and IBM chess computer Deep Blue), whose responsibility it is to protect the space-time continuum. In "The Beast With a Billion Backs," he also appears as his own head in a jar (a common fate for many recognizable public figures in the Futurama universe).
Creator Matt Groening and Hawking clearly seem to have shared a good professional rapport, given the scientist's multiple animated cameos on both Futurama and The Simpsons. Once again, Hawking is playing himself - albeit a somewhat fictionalized version - and popped up in four episodes over the course of his lifetime, from season 10's "They Saved Lisa's Brain" to season 22's "Elementary School Musical."
The Big Bang Theory
Hawking is a revered hero to the four nerds who make up the main cast of The Big Bang Theory and as a result made multiple appearances on the series - some in voiceover, and some in person. His first cameo in season five's "The Hawking Excitation" led to the show establishing an ongoing camaraderie between Hawking and the character of Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons. His last appearance on the show was in season 11's "The Proposal Proposal," where he helped Sheldon propose to longtime girlfriend Amy.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
One of Hawking's final cameos was for BBC Radio 4, where he provided a voiceover for the new radio drama version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as The Guide Mark II (the second and even more powerful version of the Hitchhiker's Guide). In a brief audio clip, you can hear Hawking make an amusing tongue-in-cheek reference to his science career - but make no mistake, the Guide Mark II only just happens to sound like Stephen Hawking. Any similarities are purely coincidental.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This one technically isn't a cameo, but it's a delightful if brief image. During a brief scene in the third Harry Potter film, we catch a glimpse of a wizard in the Leaky Cauldron idly performing wandless magic on a cup of coffee (or tea) while reading a book. That book is none other than Hawking's A Brief History of Time, published in 1993. It's been theorized that this could be a potential Easter egg referencing Hermione's use of the Time-Turner later in the plot but either way, it's nice to see that there's even an appreciation for Hawking's sciencing in the wizarding world.