Stephen Hawking serves as an icon for progress, exploration and knowledge. His legacy in science and education will help instruct and develop physicists for generations to come.
But Hawking also left his mark on popular culture, appearing on television and hit comedy shows to make physics and other scientific fields more approachable and known by wider audiences.
Sometimes a television personality can also make for a significant impact on culture through the television screen as well as the classroom.
Here are Hawking’s five most famous television appearances that helped him go from physics famous to just plain famous.
1. Hawking gets snarky on the Simpsons
One of Hawking’s most memorable appearances was on the long-running animated show on television, The Simpsons. He appeared multiple times but the video above captures his first appearance on the program.
After saving Lisa, Hawking offers up a bit of hefty criticism: “I don’t know what is a bigger disappointment, my failure to formulate a unified field theory … or you,” Hawking said. Ouch
2. Big Bang Theory
More recently, Hawking made a guest appearance on the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Proudly donning a name of Hawking’s famous theory, the show credited Hawking as one of Sheldon’s absolute heroes.
In this episode, Hawking reviews Sheldon’s paper and finds a mistake on the second page.
“Too bad it was wrong,” Hawking said. “You made an arithmetic mistake on Page 2. It was quite the boner.”
The cast paid homage to Hawking after finding out about his death.
3. Star Trek
Originally aired in 1993 and to the pleasure of geeks everywhere, Hawking appeared on Star Trek playing poker with some of the universes greatest scientific minds.
Rubbing elbows with Einstein and Galileo, Hawking raises the pot, forcing Spock and Galileo to fold. Einstein tries to call his bluff but instead has to eat his own words.
This episode is a fun way to humanize great scientific icons and Hawking enjoys the position to be the only icon playing himself.
4. The Theory of Everything
An award-winning British drama that encapsulates the life of Hawking premiered in 2014. It’s a retelling of his journey toward physics and how he overcame ALS, an infliction that left him unable to use many of his muscles in his upper and lower body.
The movie was nominated for best picture and best lead actor with Eddie Redmayne. It was originally adapted from a book by Hawking’s ex-wife Jane Hawking.
5. Host of Appearances
There have been a number of shows that Hawking visited to spread a message of education and clarification. One highlight was his conversation with John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.
How were you introduced to Hawking and his research?