Stephen Hawking is being celebrated on a UK coin for the first time.
As part of its new Innovation In Science series, the Royal Mint commemorated the famous physicist in a 50 pence ($0.65) silver.
Hawking, who passed away last year at the age of 76, joins an elite group of scientists having appeared on coins—including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at age 21, doctors gave Hawking only a few years to live. But the cosmologist and author, famed for his work with black holes and relativity, beat the odds.
A wheelchair and synthesized voice never dampened his spirit; his intellect and sense of humor made him an icon in academia and pop culture.
“I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought,” coin designer Edwina Ellis said in a statement.
Coming up to the one-year anniversary of his death, Professor Hawking’s children Lucy and Tim visited the Royal Mint, where they struck their own coins to honor their father’s “outstanding contribution to science,” the government agency tweeted this week.
“It’s such a beautiful piece of coinage,” Lucy said in a video, describing the “2D surface that seems to have a 3D image on it.”
It’s as though you could fall into the black hole,” she added.
The illusion, according to Ellis, was inspired by a lecture Hawking gave in Chile a decade ago.
“At his playful best, [he] invites the audience to contemplate peering into a black hole before diving in,” she explained. “You feel he cared about all of us understanding.”
Hawking explained black holes in his best-selling book “A Brief History of Time.”
“He would have been thrilled to know that there’s a coin commemorating him and his work,” Tim Hawking said. “I have a very clear sense of him with one of his huge, wide smiles.”
Uncirculated copies of the coin are available for purchase for £10 ($13.15) on the Royal Mint’s website.
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