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ECRs Reflect on Stephen Hawking

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” 

–Stephen Hawking 1942-2018


This week the world lost one of the most impressive scientists in history, the one and only Stephen Hawking. We in the PLOS ECR Community feel honored to have walked the earth at the same time as this man, and we’ve collected thoughts from our writers about Hawking and how he changed the course of our work. Today’s post is a tribute to his influence on young scientists around the world.

Professor Stephen Hawking was the most legendary, visionary and extraordinary physicist of his time. He has been my hero since childhood when I started wondering about the universe around me. I had his poster right in front of my study table with the quote, “We should seek the greatest value of our action.” This quote became my inspiration for my lifetime. During high school, when I first studied the theory of relativity and quantum theory, I wondered why we need two different theories to explain physics, why the electron is negatively charged, and why different particles behave differently? And my science teacher gave me his first book, “A Brief History of Time,” to answer my questions. I was amazed by String theory and his totally different way of explaining the universe and black holes. Though I have chosen biology as a major, I still keep reading his work on quantum physics and String theory. His work has made a big contribution to my scientific interests and research journey to date. His courage, knowledge, theories, vision for future physics and for humanity was always astounding. He left an infinite imprint in this universe with his work. He never can die, because his remarkable intervention in our knowledge of science will always abide.    —Vijay Soni, PhD


One of the top quotes of Stephen Hawking that has always touched me is, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” It has a two-pronged impact on my thought process. Being a biologist, it connects so well to my experience with a range of biological systems in which I see miniature microbes, to large plants, to mammals, all responding to a given change — be it gene expression, chemical, or protein changes.While not all organisms participate in communication or locomotion in response to change as humans do, we can consider the capacity to “adapt on the go” as a sign of intelligence in the living world. The other facet of Hawking’s quote which I connect with as an ECR is that for career growth, we must always be ready to adapt to change (in fields, areas, newer opportunities, challenges) which goes on to show our intelligence. Without studying a lot on biological topics himself, through physical and mathematical words he has left a huge mark on the biological world as well!   —Biswapriya B. Misra @BiswapriyaMisra


What I love most about Stephen Hawking is the message his life sends about overcoming adversity and disability. I also always enjoyed his appearances on the sitcom, ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ which I was a huge fan of during high school and college. I love that he didn’t think of himself as too good to appear on the show–he engaged with everyday viewers rather than staying in an academic ivory tower. He showed that scientists can have fun, and likely spread the word about his work and inspired some kids to learn about physics at the same time. His mind but also his personality will remain an example for scientists for years to come.  —Meredith Wright @MerWright13

For more inspiring Stephen Hawking quotes, read on here and here.


Featured Image by Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network is in the public domain.



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