A living legend

Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

IN 1989, I picked up Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time. With introduction written by Carl Sagan (who I loved for creating Cosmos), people raved how significant it was. It attempted to explain the big bang theory and black holes to everyday readers, but unfortunately, much of it had flown over my head and I didn’t get past the first two chapters.

I also certainly did not get to understand and appreciate what it took to actually get that book out. The Theory of Everything tells the story of Stephen Hawking— theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, son, husband, father, friend.

In 1963, at age 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aka “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” aka ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which got a lot of publicity last year because of that ice bucket challenge. He was given two years to live.

Today he is 73 years old and you can go to his Wikipedia page for an extensive list of his contributions to science. How’s that for bucking the odds?

Even before his diagnosis, Hawking was driven to find that “one single, elegant equation to explain everything in the universe.” And while his motor skills had begun to fail, there were sparks in his mind that refused to be put out (either that or he also had a rare, extra potent form of bullheadedness).

The Theory of Everything has a few scenes which try to make the science of Hawking understandable to the average moviegoer, but this is most part the story of Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones.)

The two got married in July 1965, had three children and stayed married for 30 years. So much of the film is devoted to their marriage. One scene has Jane saying early on that theirs “is not a normal family.” But looking at the overall picture—three happy children, and the love and friendship of parents (despite a divorce after three decades), the Hawkings did have something rather extraordinary.

Much of the movie is based on Jane’s 2008 book Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen—the way things are going, there are likely to be more chapters to be written.

Just a bit of trivia: Benedict Cumberbatch, nominated for a best actor Oscar for portraying British mathematician and Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing (The Imitation Game) played Stephen Hawking in the BBC television film, Hawking. Of course we all know Eddie Redmayne won the Academy award for this one.

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The Theory of Everything opened February 25 in the Philippines and is screened at the Ayala Cinemas.


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