World renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking was a trailblazer in just about every area he touched. He was the first to develop a theory of cosmology, uniting the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
He continued his work and started even more despite being diagnosed with early-onset ALS at the age of 21.
With the assistance of a wheelchair and voice synthesizer, Hawking continued not only unlocking the mysteries of the universe but also being champion for disability rights, even boarding a reduced-gravity aircraft in 2007 in an effort to increase public interest in spaceflight and show that people don’t have to be limited by their disabilities. In 2014, he even accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise awareness of ALS, but his doctor told him that with a history of pneumonia, he shouldn’t douse himself in ice. Reluctantly, he let his kids take the challenge instead.
It wasn’t just science that Hawking broke new ground with. He was also the first celebrity to make an appearance on a Star Trek series as himself. It’s no surprise that someone who devoted his life to science and expressed concern about the state of the planet and society would enjoy the idyllic future Star Trek has to offer.
When Leonard Nimoy presented a documentary about Hawking in the early ‘90s, the film’s producer brought it to his attention that Hawking was a longtime fan of Star Trek. Nimoy pulled some strings and get him an appearance on the show. In 1993, he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation in a humorous cameo as a hologram, playing poker with Data, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Hawking also made appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama and The Big Bang Theory.
According to Digital Spy, when Hawking went on a tour of Star Trek’s set, he saw the warp core in engineering and said, “I’m working on that.”
In honor of Stephen Hawking’s life, Heroes & Icons will air Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Descent” Parts 1 and 2 on Friday, March 16, at 6pm ET.