Finally an article dedicated to the Oxonian side of Stephen Hawking! After so much TAB emphasis in the film The Theory of Everything it is time for the world to realise that it was Oxford that provided the foundation for Hawking’s innovation and mischief-making. Jayne Nelson’s ‘Hawking at Oxford’ (Oxford Today, Trinity 2015) is a refreshing look at genius, because it underscores a trait that Hawking shares with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Professor Higgs: a playfulness of spirit, and a light-hearted approach to work that is based on adventure and indirect discovery. This is very inspiring to students: anyone who has struggled with exams or assignments should keep on mind that some of the world’s greatest scientists recognised the equal importance of leisure/library. The image of a naughty Hawking waving his handkerchief in the air calls to mind another famous Oxonian: Magdalen College graduate Oscar Wilde, who found it difficult to live up to his blue china, and boasted about doing little work (when in fact he was a work-horse, and was a sartorial Trojan horse at parties).
But on a more serious note: play is a crucial step in creativity. I’ve seen it first-hand in my daughter Leonora, whose playful spirit and emphasis on joy that does not deny competition and hardship, but rather, focuses on one’s individual gifts: what can I bring to the world that is unique and distinctive?
Oxford, when will our version of a Hawking movie come out? This would be a wonderful film, very comedic and young-at-heart and a true-story of Oxford blues and the rowing tradition.