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Stephen Hawking in Seattle — A Penchant for Salsa Dancing

David Klinghoffer

Stephen Hawking

Speaking of Stephen Hawking, we found a photo from his visit to Seattle in 2001 for the launch of his book The Universe in a Nutshell. Hawking gave a talk at the Seattle Opera House, now called McCaw Hall, and Discovery Institute was among several organizations co-sponsoring the event, which was preceded by a dinner. It was Monday, March 26.

During the Q&A, Discovery Institute founder Bruce Chapman asked Hawking a question about how he pictured the “mind of God” that Hawking referred to in the last sentence of A Brief History of Time. Hawking replied that he had something “impersonal” in mind, like the “laws of nature.” You can see Bruce in the picture at the top. He did not get up very close.

Another colleague, though, reported that he “got to touch his chair,” meaning Hawking’s wheelchair, “and thank him for coming.” An unexpected memory:

Bruce Chapman, the president of Discovery, invited a number of board members, one of whom was very eager to meet Hawking in person. The night before the talk, however, this guest’s wife came home from a dancing club with exclamations of “You’ll never guess who was at the salsa club!” Of course, it was none other than Hawking — who apparently really enjoys salsa music and dancing. He was reported to have been on the edge of the dance floor, moving his wheelchair back and forth to those Latino rhythms. It was further reported that after his two-hour lecture, he was ready to hit the dance scene again, but to no avail since Seattle’s salsa activity is near absolute zero on Monday nights.

Stephen Hawking had a penchant for salsa dancing: I bet you didn’t know that.

I mentioned this story to a family friend, a lady who has taken quite the interest herself in dancing of all kinds in recent years. Oh no, she assured me, Dr. Hawking need not have gone away disappointed. Seattle is a hotspot for salsa and there would be no problem finding a place to watch and enjoy the dancing even on a Monday night. Of course this was 2001, and times change!