Stephen Hawking: the myth and the reality

I could never muster much enthusiasm for the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. His work, on the early universe and the nature of spacetime, was Nobel-worthy, but those of us outside his narrow community were horribly short-changed. His 1988 global bestseller A Brief History of Time was incomprehensible, not because it was difficult but because it was bad. Nobody, naturally, wanted to ascribe Hawking’s popular success to his rare form of motor neurone disease, Hawking least of all. He afforded us no room for horror or, God forbid, pity. In 1990, asked a dumb question about how his condition might have shaped his work (because people who suffer ruinous, debilitating illnesses