Stephen Hawking was a legendary physicist, science communicator, and public intellectual – but he was also human.
And rumour has it, he had a mischievous way of getting back at people he didn’t like: he’d deliberately run over their toes with his wheelchair.
And while he was well-known for his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis that left him wheelchair bound for decades, the Cambridge professor may have used his condition to his advantage where he could.
In the 2012 biography “Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind,” author Kitty Ferguson wrote that it was rumoured that Hawking would try to run over the toes of people who annoyed him.
In 1977, Prince Charles got his feet crushed beneath his wheels during the royal’s induction into the Royal Society, she wrote: “The prince was intrigued by Hawking’s wheelchair, and Hawking, twirling it around to demonstrate its capabilities, carelessly ran over Prince Charles’s toes … People who annoyed him, it was said, found themselves a target.”
It was even rumoured that one of the politically outspoken scientist’s great regrets was that he never got a chance to run over the toes of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Hawking, it has to be said, denied these allegations – albeit fairly unconvincingly.
“A malicious rumour,” he told Ferguson. “I’ll run over anyone who repeats it.”
Remembering Stephen Hawking:
- Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at 76
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- 15 Stephen Hawking quotes that reveal how a genius thinks
- Must-read list: The best stories on Stephen Hawking
- Scientists recall stories of how they crashed into Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair
- Stephen Hawking had a ‘sense of humour as vast as the universe’: unique tributes flood in for esteemed scientist
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