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How can a genealogist NOT love Stephen Hawking?

First off, genealogists are concerned with time: with the past, the present, and the future. We research, write about and, heck, even obsess about the past. And we do it all not just for our own benefit in the present but as a gift to future generations. So what’s not to love about a man whose extraordinary accomplishments include A Brief History of Time?1

Second, genealogists are used to adversity. We run into brick walls and have to find different ways of doing things all the time. So what’s not to love about a man who makes himself into a renowned mathematician and physicist in spite of being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)2 at the age of 21?

Third, genealogists are well aware that our successes often depend in large measure on the work of those who have gone before us. So what’s not to love about a man who acknowledges the fact that we all owe the scholars of the past a deep debt of gratitude, that we indeed often stand On the Shoulders of Giants?3

And last but not least, genealogists are folks who have just GOT to think that every field should recognize its own genealogy. So what’s not to love about a guy who’s included in something as geeky as the Mathematics Genealogy Project?4

So happy 70th birthday,5 Stephen Hawking! And many happy returns of the day.


  1. Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time : From the Big Bang to Black Holes (London : Random House, 1988).
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” PubMed Health ( : accessed 7 Jan 2012).
  3. Hawking, On the Shoulders of Giants : The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2002).
  4. Mathematics Genealogy Project, entry for “Hawking, Stephen W.” ( : accessed 7 Jan 2012).
  5. Hawking was born in Oxford, England, 8 January 1942, the first-born child of Frank and Isobel Hawking of London. Kristine Larsen, Stephen Hawking : A Biography (Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2005), 1-2. See also “Brief Biography,” Stephen Hawking ( : accessed 7 Jan 2012).
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