Dutch professor responds to Stephen Hawking's death

British physicist Stephen Hawking was an extraordinary man, with a great sense of humor, who did amazing things for science, according to Dutch professor Vincent Icke. The world renowned physicist passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76.

Icke and Hawking worked together at the Institute for Astronomy in Cambridge. "There were a lot of these fake academics around", Icke said speaking to RTL Nieuws. "But Steve was not fake at all, he was a really nice guy."

Hawking suffered from terminal muscle disease ALS for decades. He was confined to a wheelchair for a large part of his life and had to speak through a computer voice box. "Steve was, even when he already had ALS, a very cheerful person. He had a very ironic and profound sense of humor. Amazing for someone who knows he does not have long to live. He was very philosophical about his condition. How would you behave in regard to an announced death? He was very brave in that", Icke said.

According to Icke, Hawking's pioneering work did a lot for science. "He was one of the first to take the existence of black holes seriously. Black holes were predicted by Einstein's theory of relatively, but many physicists thought: you do not have to take that seriously, such crazy things do not occur in nature. Steve was one of the rare people who thought: maybe it does happen in nature, let's see if we can study it. And he did that very well." Icke said. "Nowadays we can detect those gravitational waves. That we can actually 'see' those black holes and 'see' them collide with each other. I'm glad Steve was alive to experience the detection of those waves."

Hakwing didn't only do great things for the science world, but also increased the public's understanding about physics, Icke said. "He wrote good books for a general audience. And despite his illness, he made quite a lot of appearances. That made Stephen Hawking a kind of brand name."