Dr. Stephen Hawking -- the man, the legend, the scientist so respected and beloved that he played a holographic version of himself, a man amongst geniuses, in the "Descent, Part 1" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation -- turns 73 years old today.
StarTrek.com's One Trek Mind writer, Jordan Hoffman, described Dr. Hawking as follows: "He is so fascinating that if he came up in fiction one might think it were far-fetched. Here is one of the most advanced minds in the world, and yet he is trapped inside a broken body. Communicating through mechanical means (a speech system that could be updated, but is retained for idiosyncratic reasons), Professor Hawking's brilliant insights into Cosmology ring with a robotic quality. His voice is without question the most recognizable of any scientist living today – though it isn't actually his voice."
Some Hawking tidbits to consider:
-- Listen carefully to latter-day Star Trek and more than once mention is made of a shuttlecraft called the Hawking.
-- Hawking is the only person to play himself or herself (or a holographic version) on any incarnation of Star Trek.
-- In the TNG series finale, "All Good Things...," Data (in an alternate future) holds the Lucasian Chair of mathematics at Cambridge University. Why such a specific reference? Dr. Hawking held that same position from 1979 to 2009. And, by the way, Sir Isaac Newton, Data and Hawking's holographic poker competition, held the position from 1669 to 1702.
-- Dr. Hawking followed in the footsteps of several popular Trek figures, including Wil Wheaton and Leonard Nimoy, by guest starring on The Big Bang Theory. Dr. Hawking played himself in the episode, which aired in April, 2012.
-- Speaking of DS9, Dr. Hawking visited the set of the show during the production of the episode "The House of Quark."
-- The current film The Theory of Everything is a biopic about Dr. Hawking's life.
-- We loved this one too much not to include it: Dr. Hawking's birthday -- January 8, 1942 -- was the 300th anniversary of the death of physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei.
-- And here's a question for you... What do Khan and Dr. Hawking have in common? Would you believe... Benedict Cumberbatch. The red-hot actor, who played Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, starred as Dr. Hawking in a 2004 British television movie titled Hawking.
So please join everyone at StarTrek.com in wishing Dr. Hawking a happy 73rd birthday.