Scientist Stephen Hawking has died. His commitment to the environment and against Donald Trump

Renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. Here’s what he did for science and to raise awareness on climate change.

World renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has died at his home in Cambridge, UK, in the morning of 14 March. He was 76 years old and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at a very young age. His genius, tenacity and physical conditions made him famous all over the world.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”. Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) / “Ricordatevi di guardare in alto, verso le stelle, e non in basso, verso i vostri piedi. Stephen Hawking

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Stephen Hawking held the same post of Isaac Newton at Cambridge

Hawkings’s children Lucy, Robert and Tim announced his death in a statement carried by the Press Association: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

Stephen Hawking dies at 76
Scientist Stephen Hawking during the New Space Exploration Initiative, in 2016 in New York City © Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Hawking dedicated his existence to trying to comprehend the mysteries of the universe. After the announcement of his passing the scientific community has come together to pay tribute: “Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy,” said the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, where Hawking was a student and a professor. “His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we and the world are exploring,” NASA said.

Hawking on climate change and the Paris Agreement

Stephen Hawking was born on 8 February 1942. His work was mainly focused on the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, with the aim of explaining the origin of the universe. In 1974, at the age of 32, Hawking became one of the youngest members of the Royal Society, which is United Kingdom’s most prestigious scientific institution. Five years later he got the same post held by Isaac Newton at the University of Cambridge. In 1988 he published his most popular science book: A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.

stephen hawking and barack obama
Stephen Hawking with former President of the United States, Barack Obama © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

His commitment didn’t focus on academic science alone. In July 2017, during an interview with BBC, he harshly commented the decision made by US President Donald Trump of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement: “We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus,” he said. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and it’s one we can prevent if we act now. By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.”

Greed and aggression belong to humankind

A few months earlier, during an interview with broadcaster ITV, Hawking strongly criticised the appointment of Scott Pruitt, a fossil fuel supporter and climate change denier, to the lead of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the Professor, choosing a character of this kind, as well as the choice of building a wall on the border with Mexico and the approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines are just a move to please Trump’s voters, which aren’t tolerant or well-informed”.

© Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
“Evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome” © Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

In the same interview Hawking expressed his pessimism on humankind: “Evolution has inbuilt greed and aggression to the human genome. There is no sign of conflict lessening, and the development of militarised technology and weapons of mass destruction could make that disastrous”. Also, he also commented the result of the referendum in the UK: “Science is based on cooperation. Brexit would be a disaster for UK science”.

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