The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression, Stephen Hawking tells London’s Guest of Honour

Friday 20 February 2015

Professor Hawking was speaking to London’s Official Guest of Honour Adaeze Uyanwah as he gave her a personal guided tour of his favourite places in the city’s famous Science Museum, which he described as “the home of human ingenuity”.

During the tour, Adaeze asked Professor Hawking what of our common shortcomings as human beings would he alter, and what of our virtues would he magnify, if it were possible. He said:

“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory, or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all. A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race. The quality I would most like to magnify is empathy. It brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”

During the tour Professor Hawking said he was pleased to lend his synthesised ‘voice’ to actor Eddie Redmayne for his Oscar-nominated performance in The Theory of Everything – but added: “Unfortunately Eddie did not inherit my good looks.”

The tour is one of a series of magic moments for Adaeze, 24, from California, who beat off over 10,000 international entrants to win a trip of a lifetime to London. Other highlights of the two week trip have included afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket Ground with Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter, the opportunity to appear in the West End as part of the cast of Mamma Mia!, a guided tour of the Royal Opera House with former ballerina Darcey Bussell, and an Oxford Street shopping spree with Glamour magazine editor Jo Elvin followed by a fashion photoshoot with Fenton Bailey.

The tour of one of Professor Hawking’s favourite places, the Science Museum, reflected the physicist’s life and his passions. In the Space Gallery, he pointed out both the command module of Apollo 10, launched in May 1969 as a dress rehearsal for the first moon landing, and a model of the Apollo 11 moon lander, telling Adaeze “it is important we continue human space exploration”. He added:

“Sending humans to the moon changed the future of the human race in ways that we don’t yet understand. It hasn’t solved any of our immediate problems on planet Earth, but it has given us new perspectives on them and caused us to look both outward and inward. I believe that the long term future of the human race must be space and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonising other planets.”

Professor Hawking also introduced Adaeze to items from the Museum’s collection that hold special significance for him, including a rare copy of Newton’s Principia Mathematica, one of the most important books in science, his first speech synthesiser custom-made in 1985, and a portrait of him by British artist David Hockney produced on an iPad – about which he commented: “I’m still not quite sure about the fingers.”

He concluded the tour by telling her:

“I hope that the objects and galleries you see here today will help remind you, as they did me years ago, to try to make sense of what you see and hold on to that childlike wonder about what makes the universe exist. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

Welcoming Adaeze’s special visit, Director of the Science Museum Ian Blatchford said:

“The Science Museum is overflowing with scientific treasures. They celebrate human ingenuity and our quest to understand and shape our place in the universe, so I cannot think of better guide than one of the greatest explorers of our age. It has been a delight to welcome Adaeze here and huge thanks go to Professor Hawking for making this unique opportunity possible.”

Adaeze, who is a teacher and creative writer in her hometown of Palmdale, California, added:

“It’s incredible to think that decades from now, when my grandchildren are learning Stephen Hawking’s theories in science class, I’ll be able to tell them I had a personal meeting with him and heard his views first hand. It’s something I’ll never forget and I’m so grateful to him and the Museum for this awesome experience.”

The Theory of Everything, based on Stephen Hawking’s life story, has received five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and Actor and Actress in a Leading Role for Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who plays Jane Hawking. The awards ceremony takes place on Sunday 22 February 2015.

The Guest of Honour initiative was launched by in partnership with VisitBritain and the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign. Adaeze is being hosted throughout her trip by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s promotional company.

Gordon Innes, Chief Executive Officer of London & Partners, said: “London is an incredibly exciting city, and it is such a privilege to explore it with Adaeze and see it again through her eyes. Although she is getting some unique insights, nearly all the experiences she is having are open to everyone who visits London, and all of them are terrific even without a famous tour guide!”

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Stephen Hawking meets London's Guest of Honour at The Science Museum
Stephen Hawking meets London's Guest of Honour