ASU director of research recounts Stephen Hawking's impact on her life

As the world reacts to news of Stephen Hawking's death at the age of 76, A director of research at Arizona State University remembers his impact on her life.

For Tanya Harrison, Hawking's passing will leave an enormous void. Harrison believes Hawking's greatest gift was taking complex concepts, and making them understandable to the average person

For Harrison, who is the Director of Research for ASU's New Space Initiative, the name Hawking means a lot. After gifting her a copy of A Brief History of Time, Harrison's grandfather took her to see Hawking speak in 2001.

"It was totally sold out. There were people standing outside with posters like trying to scalp tickets off of people," Harrison recounted. "It was like going to a rock concert. There were people of all ages, of all background, and they just wanted to see him speak."

Even though Harrison credits Hawking with influencing her life's path in science, she believes his impact isn't limited to one field.

"I feel like he touched a lot of lives," said Harrison. "Even if you're not a scientist, I think his name is well known in the general public, and people have had a favorable opinion, generally speaking, on the impact he's has on science."

Aside from his enormous contribution to research on general relativity and discovering that black holes emit radiation, Hawking had a rare gift.

"He also did a fantastic job of taking complex concepts in quantum physics and cosmology and digesting them down into a language that is easily understandable to the general public, and that's not an easy thing to do," said Harrison.

Harrison said even though his death may generate some immediate attention, his legacy will last forever.

"I'm sure that the Google searches for things like A Brief History of Time are spiking today with people trying to look it up, but he's had such a long standing legacy, pretty much over my entire lifetime and beyond that," said Harrison "I think that will just keep resonating with people."