Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was an outstanding scientist, a good father, a visionary, a fighter, but also a very provocative person with a strong sense of humour.
As the world woke up to the news of his death, though it is fair to remember him for his outstanding scientific achievements and qualities, we shouldn’t forget how opinionated he was and the countless situations in which he had a go at someone he disliked.
Needless to say, Professor Hawking, who died last night at the age of 76, has left behind a legacy of ground-breaking discoveries and theories that mainly focused on black holes and relativity, but frankly, he loved having a rant with certain people.
He spent most his life chained to a wheelchair, unable to move or speak without the support of a voice synthesiser, but he always managed to use his disabilities for other purposes.
Here are some of his most famous rants and his most famous victims.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Hawking vividly engaged in matters regarding the UK’s National Health Service up until the day of his death.
Throughout the years, however, his negative opinions on the government’s health policies and his commitment to safeguarding the NHS led him to engage in a vehement public dispute with health secretary Jeremy Hunt, which further escalated over time.
In 2017, the scientist even decided to join a legal action that aimed to stop the introduction of the first accountable care organisations into the NHS.
“The crisis in the NHS has been caused by political decisions,” Hawking said last year, soon accusing Hunt of cherry-picking scientific research.
We see the balance of power in the UK is with private healthcare companies, and the direction of change is towards a US-style insurance system.
Following the news of Hawking’s death, Hunt took to social media to pay his tribute, but his action was not widely welcomed.
Hawking never hid his disappointment towards US President Donald Trump and his political views on immigration and the environment.
“I fear I may not be welcome” in Trump’s America, he once said. He also described him as a “demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator” and added that he could not explain how he became president.
The scientist was also particularly passionate about climate change and strongly disagreed with Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement.
He once told the BBC:
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.
Theresa May (over Brexit)
Despite initially claiming that the idea of Brexit was too complex even for him, Hawking often condemned the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and outlined its possible negative repercussions on the country’s economy.
During an interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain last year, he said:
By remaining in the EU, we would have given ourselves more influence in the world, and we would provide future opportunities for young people. But leaving Europe threatens Britain’s status as the world leader in science and innovation.
In 2012, biographer Kitty Ferguson wrote the book “Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind”, where she claimed that the illustrious professor had a very personal way to annoy people he disliked.
According to the piece, Hawking indeed managed to make the best out of his disability as he loved running over people’s toes. Rumours say that he particularly experimented this practice with Prince Charles in 1977.
The prince was intrigued by Hawking’s wheelchair, and Hawking, twirling it around to demonstrate its capabilities, carelessly ran over Prince Charles’s toes … People who annoyed him, it was said, found themselves a target.
According to the book, Hawking confessed to regretting not having the chance to do former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the same favour.
When asked to comment on the matter, he replied:
A malicious rumour. I’ll run over anyone who repeats it.