Stephen Hawking, in His Own Words

Stephen Hawking, in His Own Words

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who died on Wednesday at 76 in Cambridge, England, never won a Nobel Prize. But his book “A Brief History of Time” made him a star beyond his field, and his penchant for dropping bon mots on subjects large and small made him an enduring pop culture figure.

Here is a selection of his quotes.

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

The Possibility of an Afterlife

“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.”

His Mission in Life

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

“There is no god. I am an atheist.”

Fame and His Disability

“The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.”


“Without imperfection, you or I would not exist.”


“The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”

Scientific Discovery

“I wouldn’t compare it to sex, but it lasts longer.”

Not Winning a Nobel

“The Nobel is given only for theoretical work that has been confirmed by observation. It is very, very difficult to observe the things I have worked on.”

“People who boast about their I.Q. are losers.”

“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”


“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”


“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Black Holes

“They’re named black holes because they are related to human fears of being destroyed or gobbled up. I don’t have fears of being thrown into them. I understand them. I feel in a sense that I am their master.”

A.I. could be the “worst event in the history of our civilization.”

“Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and its one we can prevent.”


“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

The Possibility of Contact With Aliens

“I think it would be a disaster. The extraterrestrials would probably be far in advance of us. The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think we should keep our heads low.”

Sending Humans to Mars

“Stupid. Robots would do a better job and be much cheaper because you don’t have to bring them back.”

The Meaning of Life

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Yonette Joseph is the London weekend editor. She was previously a breaking-news editor in New York and has worked for The Washington Post and The Miami Herald.

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