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Stephen Hawking was rumoured to run over the toes of people he didn't like with his wheelchair

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 5 days ago Rob Price

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Stephen Hawking was a legendary physicist, science communicator, and public intellectual - but he was also human.

And rumour has it, he had a mischievous way of getting back at people he didn't like: he'd deliberately run over their toes with his wheelchair.

Hawking died peacefully at his home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, his family has said in a statement. His death has prompted an immediate outpouring of grief and tributes to his talents.

And while he was well-known for his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) diagnosis that left him wheelchair bound for decades, the Cambridge professor may have used his condition to his advantage where he could.

a man sitting in a chair © Business Insider In the 2012 biography Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind, author Kitty Ferguson wrote that it was rumoured that Hawking would try to run over the toes of people who annoyed him.

In 1977, Prince Charles got his feet crushed beneath his wheels during the royal's induction into the Royal Society, she wrote: "The prince was intrigued by Hawking's wheelchair, and Hawking, twirling it around to demonstrate its capabilities, carelessly ran over Prince Charles's toes ... People who annoyed him, it was said, found themselves a target."

It was even rumoured that one of the politically outspoken scientist's great regrets was that he never got a chance to run over the toes of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Hawking, it has to be said, denied these allegations - albeit fairly unconvincingly.

"A malicious rumour," he told Ferguson. "I'll run over anyone who repeats it."

Pictures: Tributes pour in for Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking attends 'Interstellar Live' at Royal Albert Hall on March 30, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) In memoriam: Tributes to Stephen Hawking

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