Birzeit University bids farewell to Einstein's successor, great physicist Stephen Hawking

Birzeit University grieves the loss of its friend and supporter, famed physicist Stephen Hawking, who was well-known for his close relationship with the university and his support for the Palestinian cause and Palestinian physics students.

Birzeit University hosted Professor Hawking in 2006 when he gave a lecture, entitled “Origin of the Universe,” that was attended by hundreds of faculty members and Palestinian physicists, and watched by thousands of students on outdoor screens.

Professor Hawking was an ardent supporter of Palestine. He criticized the Israeli measures that violated intellectual freedom in Palestine, encouraged academic cooperation between Britain and Palestinian academic institutions, and supported the academic boycott of Israel – Professor Hawking declined an invitation in 2013 to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference.

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all

One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away 

- Stephen Hawking

Professor Hawking had a close relationship with physics students and professors at Birzeit University. Chair of the Department of Physics at Birzeit Dr. Isma’el Badran grieved the loss of “one of the most influential physicists in history after Einstein.”

“The death of Stephen Hawking,” Badran said, “is a huge loss to physicist around the world, supporters of Palestine, and the Department of Physics at the university. Professor Hawking’s work was one of the foundations upon which the Big Bang theory is built, and his work on black holes shed light on such an unknown astronomical phenomenon.”

Henry Giacaman, a professor of physics at Birzeit University, noted Professor Hawking’s support to Palestine, saying, “Professor Hawking did everything he could to develop physics education and research in Palestine. He expressed his support for the first Palestinian Advanced Physics School and called for a fundraising initiative aimed at financing the second one, held at Birzeit University in the summer of 2017.”

In 1963, Professor Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that involves the neurons controlling voluntary muscle movement. The slow-progressing diseases paralyzed Professor Hawking and rendered him able to almost exclusively through a speech synthesizer.

Born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, Professor Hawking earned a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from the University of Oxford and later went on to pursue a Ph.D. in cosmology from the University of Cambridge.

Professor Hawking’s work included research on cosmology, the relationship between black holes and thermodynamics, and the space-time continuum.

In 1974, Professor Hawking was able to prove, theoretically, that black holes emit radiation – named the Hawking radiation –  against all theories accepted at the time. His book, “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and a 2014 film on his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for a number of Academy Awards.