Speaking from beyond the grave, Professor Stephen Hawking has told a new generation growing up in an increasingly insular world: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”
The eminent cosmologist, who had motor neurone disease and died in March, had his final public thoughts broadcast at a special event to launch his last book, Brief Answers To The Big Questions.
Prof Hawking’s words of advice and defiance, echoing from an Imax screen at London’s Science Museum, brought tears to the eyes of his daughter Lucy.
He warned that education and science were “in danger now more than ever before”.
The professor added: “We are … in danger of becoming culturally isolated and insular and increasingly remote from where progress is being made.
“With Brexit and Trump now exerting new forces in relation to immigration and the development of education, we are witnessing a global revolt against experts, and that includes scientists.
“What lies ahead for those who are young now? I can say with confidence that their future will depend more on science and technology than any previous generation’s has done.”
Global warming, overpopulation, species extinction, deforestation and the degradation of the oceans were just some of the challenges science had to meet, he said.
Prof Hawking ended his emotional address to younger generations with these stirring 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, and however difficult life may seem there is always something you can do and succeed at.
“It matters that you don’t give up. Unleash your imagination. Shape the future.”
Lucy Hawking, who attended the book launch, was asked how it felt to hear her father once again speaking through his famous voice generation computer.
She said: “It was very emotional. I turned away because I had tears forming in my eyes.
“I feel sometimes like he’s still here because we talk about him and we hear his voice and we see images of him, and then we have the reminder that he’s left us.”
Her brother Timothy said that while reading the new book he could hear his father’s voice “leaping off the page”.
He added: “It’s been very nice to connect with him again in that way.”
Prof Hawking’s ashes have been interred at Westminster Abbey between the remains of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Lucy Hawking said: “We think he would have been very honoured to take his place in history.
“He never liked to be alone; he always wanted to be in the centre of everything.”
In the book, Prof Hawking sets out his answers to “big questions” about topics ranging from time travel to Brexit.
Brief Answers To The Big Questions is published by John Murray, priced £14.99.