• The Myth of Stephen Hawking - Scientific American

    Hawking managed to convince the public that his opinion always mattered. “[H]is comments attracted exaggerated attention even on topics where he had no special expertise,” wrote Martin Rees, a close friend and colleague of his, “for instance philosophy, or the dangers from aliens or from intelligent machines.” His overweening confidence—and his stubbornness—cost him respect from many of his colleagues, especially late in his career.
    The cost to Hawking was that the myth obscured the humanity of the person behind it. In truth, Hawking was not the greatest scientist of our time. He was an important physicist whose importance is almost universally misunderstood; a person who suffered deeply and also caused deep suffering; a celebrity scientist who broke the mold of his forebears and fundamentally changed the concept of a scientific celebrity. To truly understand Hawking—just as to truly understand science—one has to reject the myth and examine the messy reality underneath. To stop looking at Hawking as a prophet, but instead as a flawed and brilliant human being.