Walt Woltosz on the passing of world-famous astrophysicist, Professor Sir Stephen Hawking

Walt Woltosz, chairman of Simulations Plus Inc., commented on the passing of world-famous astrophysicist, Professor Sir Stephen Hawking,

“I first met Stephen in 1985, when Ginger and I visited him at his office at Cambridge University. We had started Words+, Inc. in 1981 as a result of trying to make a communication system for Ginger’s mother, Lucille Evans, who had ALS from about 1978-1981. We had sent Stephen equipment earlier in 1985 to facilitate his communication, after tracheostomy surgery took away what little remaining speech he had. We continued to meet usually two or more times a year for many years as we traveled to England, enjoying meeting his wife, Jane, his children, and his mother, as well as David and Elaine Mason. David became our dealer for the U.K. and Elaine later married Stephen, having been his nurse when we first met.”

“Stephen was the fastest person we ever encountered with his communication system, reaching 20 words per minute or more at his peak. Considering that we speak at 150-200 words per minute, that is pretty slow (try conversing saying just one word every three seconds), but when everything has to be done with just a single switch, it was the fastest means available. He could go much faster when selecting preprogrammed phrases and sentences, and of course when delivering a prepared speech. Through his suggestions, Stephen helped us to improve the system in a variety of ways over the years, both to communicate face-to-face and to write and deliver his many talks to groups of scientists and others. As an engineer with a keen interest in physics and especially the origins of the universe, I was delighted when he shared some of his papers with me.”

Woltosz continued, “Words+ provided his equipment for his first public lecture in Chicago at the Texas Physics Conference hosted by Professor John Wheeler using a voice synthesizer loaned by Telesensory Systems, attended his 60th birthday celebration in Cambridge, took him on a tour of the California wine country and San Francisco along with our son, Stephen. We also arranged, through our daughter Tanya, who worked for Northrop in Palmdale, California, a tour of the B-2 bomber production plant where a number of vice presidents gave a multimedia presentation on the B-2 that Stephen enjoyed. He asked how much it cost because he wanted to buy one. We have many fond memories of this great man and his family.”

“Stephen Hawking was a remarkable man and a global scientific leader. But he was also charming and witty, with a nice sense of humor. He would “dance” in his electric wheelchair at festive events, spinning in circles and dazzling all who watched. He made his place in history, along with Newton, Einstein, Bohr, and so many others. He will be missed.”