Tenerife’s astronomers, scientists, and politicians have all today expressed their sadness at the news of Stephen Hawking’s death, peacefully, at 76 years of age. The world-famous astrophysicist had been in Tenerife on several occasions, most notably for the Starmus conferences in which he spoke about his personal life, gave scientific papers, and even joined the stage with rock musicians. “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet“, he once said, saying that he loved Tenerife because of its climate and clear skies which always allowed everyone, even the least scientifically minded, to see and try to understand the wonder of the universe.
The management at the Santa Cruz auditorium where Hawking took the stage more than once expressed sadness at the news, calling the great man one of the best scientific minds in the world. Involcan and the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology wished him a safe journey, saying “see you on the other side, Professor“. The Policía Nacional drew attention to his focus on humanity and love, as well as on relativity and black holes: DEP, they said, Descanse en paz (Rest in Peace). The Museum authorities here thanked him for all he had done for them and for contributing to spreading the word about science in the Canaries, and wished him a sincere and emotional farewell.
Hawking is quoted as saying “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” There is no doubt that he alleviated and illuminated that darkness for many people, explaining the virtually inexplicable with logic, kindness and humour. May he rest in peace, indeed.