The Best Stephen Hawking Quotes That Honor His Legacy and Inspire Us All
Despite being diagnosed with a physically debilitating disease at the age of 21, Stephen Hawking was an accomplished theoretical physicist who dedicated much of his life to the study of space, time, and the universe. And as the world witnessed, Lou Gehrig’s disease was no match for this scholar’s brilliance.
At the age of 76, Hawking died on March 14, 2018 (which also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday), leaving behind a legacy we’ll never forget. Without a doubt, Hawking truly left the world a better place than he found it.
Wise, passionate, and forever a fan of a witty banter, several of Hawking’s sayings have resonated with people across the globe. Without further ado, here are Hawking’s best quotes that honor his legacy and inspire us all.
1. On always being curious
- In Hawking’s words: “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.”
As one of Hawking’s most famous pieces of advice, he reminds us to reach beyond what’s right in front of us. Be curious always, and never stop wondering. There is, after all, a great big universe out there.
Next: His thought on life
2. On life and love
- In Hawking’s words: “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it,” and “If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
These sentiments were included in a 2010 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer. In fact, Hawking said he passed these words of wisdom onto his children. According to Hawking, if you’re passionate about your work, there is much to be gained.
Similarly, Hawking’s thought on love is both insightful and moving. Hold the one you love close to your heart, and be careful with theirs.
Next: His thought on struggles
3. On staying positive when life gets difficult
- In Hawking’s words: “However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
What a powerful statement to have come from a man who spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair.
The next time you feel you can’t accomplish something, just remember what Hawking would tell you: There’s always hope.
Next: His thought on having a disability
4. On his disability and his advice to others
- In Hawking’s words: “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
Once again, Hawking showed his optimistic side when he shared this advice with The New York Times. As we all know, the accomplished physicist didn’t let his disability get in the way of reaching for the stars. And he didn’t think anyone else should let it, either.
Next: His thought on being happy
5. On controlling his own happiness
- In Hawking’s words: “Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.”
Hawking said this during an introduction to the 2010 documentary series Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. As the world witnessed, Hawking pushed the boundaries of what could be done, proving he was in charge of his own freedom — and making us all smile along the way.
Next: His thought on his life post-diagnosis
6. On considering everything in life a bonus
- In Hawking’s words: “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
What a spectacular attitude to have! If we can learn anything from Hawking — and we’ve learned a lot — it’s to always be grateful for the life we have here on this earth. And, of course, to always be searching for answers and allowing your mind to run away with possibility.
Next: His thought on humans being special
7. On why humans are a special breed
- In Hawking’s words: “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.”
As Hawking saw it, human potential is infinite. And while we may be a mere spec in the grand scheme of things, a passion for understanding it all is what sets us apart.
Next: His thought on religion
8. On religion vs. science
- In Hawking’s words: “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works.”
Science proves theories. It dispels myths. Science discovers truths and reveals lies. And for that, Hawking was certain science would always win.
Next: His thought on death
9. On death
- In Hawking’s words: “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.”
It’s no surprise that, despite all that Hawking had already accomplished in his life, he was always eager to do more. He was a student just as much as he was a teacher. Hawking, of course, wasn’t afraid of death, and he was going to use every minute he had on earth to do incredible things.
Next: His thought on imperfection
10. On human error
- In Hawking’s words: “The next time someone complains that you have made a mistake, tell them that may be a good thing. Because without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”
Not even a genius like Hawking believed in absolute perfection. Like many others who’d come before him and also made a memorable impact in the world of science, Hawking saw imperfection as a good thing.
Next: His thought on intelligence
11. On intelligence
- In Hawking’s words: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
If you’ve already developed your own definition of intelligence, great. If not, perhaps you’d like to take a page out of Hawking’s book.
The world is constantly changing — in politics, in research, in society — and those who are able to change along with it will be at the top of the class.
Next: His thought on gratitude
12. On appreciating the complexity and joys of life
- In Hawking’s words: “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Hawking didn’t believe in any kind of heaven or afterlife. Therefore, he lived his entire life determined to make the most of it. Clearly, he ended up achieving just that.
Hawking spent his life learning, teaching, and appreciating, leaving the world a better place than when he found it.
Next: His thought on human connection
13. On mankind working together
- In Hawking’s words: “Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking.”
The power of human interaction is often overlooked, but that needs to change. This quote is especially timely, given our social and political climate. Conversation is meaningful, and great things can come from it if we use our words for good, not evil.
Next: His thought on predetermination
14. On the inability to change things
- In Hawking’s words: “I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
Boom. Is he right or is he right?
Thank you, Stephen Hawking, for making us all see things a little more clearly.
Next: His thought on IQ
15. On IQ
- In Hawking’s words: “People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
Ah, we’re so glad Hawking could tell it like it is. People who constantly go around bragging are not, in fact, impressive. Don’t they have anything better to do? Perhaps their time would be better spent if they actually put all that knowledge to good use doing something productive.
Next: His thought on not taking life too seriously
16. On having a sense of humor
- In Hawking’s words: “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
It’s no surprise people were eager to know how a man confined to a wheelchair who had to speak through a computer kept his spirits high. But for Hawking, it was all about seeing the world in a positive light. And the guy certainly had a sense of humor.
Read more: 20 Most Memorable Quotes From Steve Jobs
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