In honor of Stephen Hawking, I want to share with you the story of how I once interrupted his lunch, and how it changed my life. I know this is ostensibly a dog blog, but I’m sharing this personal story as I was heartbroken to learn of his passing today via @sciencewithmycat. ♥️
On July 29th, 2002, I was in Cambridge, England on a miniature study-abroad program for American high schoolers. Rachel and Michael (new & equally enterprising friends) and I snuck away to see if we could meet Dr. Hawking. We successfully located and reconnoitered his office ?️♀️?️♀️?️♂️, but he wasn’t in. One of his grad students gave us a tour. We tried to play it cool and failed miserably. My paper journal says, “We looked around his office and Michael said stuff like ‘THIS is Stephen Hawking’s SINK!'” ?
We came back on the 30th, but he still wasn’t there.
Fortunately, we were poorly supervised. On the 31st, we struck gold. According to my journal, “Michael knocked on the door. A really nice Canadian opened it…A few minutes later she came out and said, “He will see you.” We went into his office and he said, “Hello. How are you?” We said, “Good. How are you?” We introduced ourselves and Michael asked a long, complicated physics question and Stephen explained what was wrong with his idea. After a few exchanges between Michael and Stephen (it takes him awhile to respond) we, as politely as we could, nervously asked him if it would be ok to get our pictures taken with him. He said yes. When we left his office, we high-fived and whooped. The Hawking Hunting Expedition was a success.”
What has stuck with me about this encounter was how incredibly gracious and open Dr. Hawking was to three nerdy high school students interrupting his lunch. It’s made me smile every time I think of it for the past 15 years. The fact that he took 20 minutes out of his day meant SO much to us and continues to be an huge inspiration to me.
Oh, and the thumbprint? My friend made prints of the picture a few years later, and got Dr. Hawking (and Kip Thorne!) to autograph them when they came to lecture at his university. I’m the kiddo in the middle, standing behind Dr. Hawking.
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