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Stephen Hawking, in his own words

March 15, 2018

I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.


Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who died at 76 in Cambridge, England, on Wednesday (Einstein’s birthday), 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 bons mots on subjects large and small made him an enduring pop culture figure.

Here is a selection of his quotes.

On Death

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.

Taking Risks

I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.


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.

Intellectual Showboating

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

The Importance of Having a Sense of Humor

Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.

Sending Out Invitations After a Champagne Party, in Hopes Future Time Travelers Would Show Up

I was hoping a future Miss Universe was going to step through the door.

Late Night TV

John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight”: You’ve stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes. Does that mean there’s a universe out there where I am smarter than you?

Hawking: Yes. And also a universe where you’re funny.

Teenage Yearning

My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics. Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe Zayn is still in One Direction. This girl may like to note that in another possible universe she and Zayn are happily married.


Women. They are a complete mystery.


I deal in tough mathematical questions every day, but please don’t ask me to help with Brexit.


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.


Black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe. So if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up — there’s a way out.

Artificial Intelligence

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

Climate Change

Climate change is one of the great dangers we face and it’s 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.

Why Humans Should Leave Earth

We are running out of space, and the only place we can go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth.

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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