Two agents of change
By Hamish Johnston
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has been in the news recently for two very different reasons.
Yesterday he was awarded the US’s highest civilian honour — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by Barack Obama.
Obama described Hawking as “an agent of change”, and someone who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way”.
I believe that Hawking is only the second physicist to receive the award, the first being Edward Teller — ‘Father of the H-Bomb’ and nemesis of Robert Oppenheimer.
Teller received his award from the previous president George W Bush, so perhaps physics is enjoying a period of grace in the White House?
Although Hawking received his award at the White House, he is British born and lives in the UK…facts that seem to have escaped a commentator in the US who has written:
“People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”
I don’t want to say that this is typical of the level of debate surrounding Obama’s healthcare reforms…but you can read a corrected version of the editorial here.