The world lost one of its true geniuses early Wednesday, when legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. His was a remarkable life, not only because of the intellectual and scientific achievements it produced, but also because those accomplishments were realized despite the fact that, at the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — which left him in a wheelchair and incapable of speaking (save via a voice synthesizer). His groundbreaking work on black holes and relativity made him arguably the planet’s most famous scientist — a reputation that was further enhanced by his numerous books, including his most well-known tome, A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies to date. And thus it’s no surprise that on the occasion of his death, the actor who played him in the biopic The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne, saw fit to pay tribute to the cultural giant.
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, Redmayne — who won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Hawking — praised the physicist, saying, “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.” Similarly, Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in the BBC TV film Hawking, had nothing but glowing words for the man: “I was so sad to hear that Stephen has died. I send my heartfelt love and condolences to all his family and colleagues. I feel so lucky to have known such a truly great man whose profundity was found both in his work and the communication of that work. Both in person and in books. He virtually created the publishing genre of popular science.”
Hawking leaves behind a tremendous scientific legacy, which in turn made him a fixture of the larger pop culture world. Aside from the aforementioned movies, his influential bestseller A Brief History of Time was adapted for the big screen by peerless American documentarian Errol Morris in 1991.
Morris eulogized his former subject on Twitter:
It had to happen, eventually. We were lucky to have him for so long, and I was lucky to be able to work with him. A truly fabulous human being. Stephen Hawking. Funny, perverse, and, of course, brilliant.
— errolmorris (@errolmorris) March 14, 2018
Hawking also made four memorable appearances on The Simpsons, the best of which was the 10th season’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”:
The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman paid his respects with the amusing tweet below:
Farewell to Stephen Hawking, the most intelligent guest star in the brief history of The Simpsons pic.twitter.com/po3fIHgEdh
— Matt Selman (@mattselman) March 14, 2018
Hawking also repeatedly showed up on Matt Groening’s other animated hit, Futurama:
Before that in 1993, he had a cameo on the Season 6 finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, thus becoming the only person to appear as themself in the franchise’s long history:
And most recently, he made his seventh appearance on The Big Bang Theory:
That sitcom’s star, Johnny Galecki, also took to social media this morning (as did the show itself) to remember the physicist, via a cast photo taken with him on the set:
Whether in a fictional or real-world setting, Hawking was defined by both his great intellect, as well as his considerable sense of humor, as evidenced by his 2014 appearance on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver:
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