On Wednesday, worldwide-renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, died at the age of 76. The man, a modern-day genius, passed away in the early hours of the morning at his home in Cambridge.
In a statement confirming his death, Hawking’s children said:
“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. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world. ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
The spectacular thing about Professor Hawking, aside from his exceptional scientific abilities, is that despite being given just years to live at the age of 22, he managed to prove the medics wrong by surviving well into old age.
Here are five facts you probably didn’t know about Stephen Hawking:
Following a diagnosis with a rare form of motor neuron disease (ALS), it seemed that it would soon be all over for the budding physicist, but that was far from the truth.
Because of how influential Hawking was, plenty of tributes began pouring in as soon as news of his death emerged.
Everyone from world leaders to actors to musicians, paid their tributes to the late British cosmologist, celebrating his remarkable mind, his undeniable strength and his impressive achievements in the realm of physics.
Gal Gadot, made famous by playing the titular character of 2017’s Wonder Woman, joined the long list of celebrities who honored the scientist on social media.
However, the 32-year-old actress was slated for her choice of words in her well-meant tweet.
“Rest in peace Dr. Hawking,” Gadot tweeted. “Now you’re free of any physical constraints… Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever.”
Social media users from all around the world were enraged at the suggestion that Hawking was limited by “physical restraints”. Many of them shed light on the fact that the renowned physicist managed to churn out some of the most groundbreaking discoveries known to physics.
Hawking was certainly not defined by the fact that, for most of his life, he was wheelchair-bound, and it certainly did not limit his work as a scientist.
“Gal I am chronically ill,” one Twitter user wrote. “Can’t shower or even get myself out of bed. Lost 18 years thus far. But I ran a charity funding research for my illness #ME and advocate for Change. All from my bed. Is my life not important? Disablement is not shameful, bigotry is. Watch @unrestfilm pls.”
Fans of the physicist also criticised the actress for apparently suggesting that those who happen to be disabled, need to die in order to rid themselves of their challenges.
“Thank you ‘Wonder Woman’ for that completely ableist comment,” another Twitter user complained. “Being disabled is not a restraint, he is one of the greatest minds in the world AND he was disabled. It did not RESTRAIN him. So disappointed people think this way.”
And the criticisms just kept pouring in for the actress. Unsurprisingly, the phrase “ableism” cropped up in numerous tweets.
Although there is no denying that Gal Gadot meant no harm with her little tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking, you have to be careful what you write on the internet, especially if you’re in the public eye. This is especially true when delving into topics concerning traditionally marginalized groups.
Hopefully, Gadot – and let’s face it, plenty of other people – have learned a lesson in sensitivity from this whole episode.