Both brilliant scientist and pop culture juggernaut
Stephen Hawking got plenty right about the universe, and that even extended to his thoughts on pop culture.
The cameo was so prolific that it led to people thinking he was merely a character on the TV show, rather than recognising him for his work in science.
In 1999, Hawking appeared at the end of Season 10, in the episode “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” saving the day when Springfield’s utopian meritocracy crumbled.
“I was depicted as a somewhat surreal character with enormous powers,” Hawking said, noting the show’s writers definitely used a bit of artistic license.
“Among the equipment they used for my cartoon image, I don’t like pizza, and I hope I wouldn’t use a boxing glove. Though sometimes I’m sorely tempted,” he added.
Hawking would go on to make three more appearances in The Simpsons, including an cameo where he MCs with the Flight of the Conchords. He also appeared several times as himself in Futurama.
Hawking wasn’t just an animated character. He appeared several times in The Big Bang Theory, the idea he spent much of his life working on.
“You made an arithmetic mistake on page two. It was quite a boner,” Hawking tells Sheldon after reviewing a paper on the Higgs boson in a 2012 episode.
Hawking also played himself in a 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing a poker game with the greatest minds in physics, including Einstein, Isaac Newton and Data.
“The uncertainty principle will not help you now Stephen,” Einstein tells Hawking. “All the quantum fluctuations in the world will not change the cards in your hand.”
There were also appearances on late night talk shows, like the time he kept making phone calls to Jim Carrey on the set of Late Night with Conan O’Brien back in 2007, and his recent bit with John Oliver on Last Week Tonight‘s “People Who Think Good” series.
“You’ve stated there could be an infinite number of parallel universes. Does that mean that there is a universe out there where I am smarter than you?” Oliver asked.
“Yes,” Hawking replied. “And also a universe where you’re funny.”
While Hawking kept busy making cameos on a host of television shows, he was played by other actors including Benedict Cumberbatch in 2004’s Hawking, and by Eddie Redmayne in 2014’s Theory of Everything.
Hawking’s influence also extended to music, where he voiced part of Pink Floyd’s 1994 track “Keep Talking” and 2014’s “Talkin’ Hawkin’,” both sampled from a BT commercial.
Although theories on relativity and black holes established him as a genius, his prevalence in pop culture made him a modern star, the likes science hadn’t seen before.