COSI chief scientist reflects on Stephen Hawking’s legacy

Dr. Paul Sutter (WCMH photo)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Chief Scientist at COSI, the Center Of Science and Industry, said he briefly met Stephen Hawking once at the University of Cambridge, where Hawking was the director of research in applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

COSI (WCMH photo)

Dr. Paul Sutter, who is also an astrophysicist with The Ohio State University, calls Hawking a mentor and genius who built his theories off of Einstein, Galileo and Isaac Newton.

NBC4 caught up with Sutter for a look at the man and scientist.

“The work he did, especially in the 1980s, laid the groundwork for a lot of my research into the early universe,” Sutter said.

At 21, Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He battled it for 55 years. But Sutter said he continued to excel in his work.

“So even through over the course of decades his physical condition continued to deteriorate, his mental facilities remained razor-sharp,” he said.

Hawking used cutting-edge communication technology to keep working and communicating till the end.

“He was still able to communicate those ideas, have conversations and dialogues, disagreements with colleagues. Publish new ideas and make ground-breaking results,” Sutter said.

Hawking was also a best-selling novelist. His first, “A Brief History of Time,” was written in down-to-earth style more easily understood by the man on the street.

“It set the template for all other popular science books on cosmology and theoretical physics that came after,” said Sutter.

Sutter said should mourn Hawking’s death, but celebrate his tenacity and accomplishments.

“We are relatively lucky not just as a physics community, but in the entire world that this horrible disease did not take him as quickly as it normally does,” Sutter said.

Hawking was 76 years old when his death was announced on Wednesday. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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