Einstein, as the first celebrity scientist and the creator of the relativity theory that Hawking linked to quantum mechanics, makes a revealing comparison.
Both occupy a similar spot in the culture. Both humanize cosmic mystery. Both knew how to catch the public’s eye on matters most could never hope to fully understand. Hawking, for example, once invited time travellers to a party but sent the invitations out after it happened, so no one went (… yet?), which nicely made his point that, if time travel were possible, we would already be over-run with “tourists” from the future.
Einstein’s reputed witticism that “only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe,” was a reassurance that a cheeky, grandfatherly mystic was out there at the leading edge of this baffling new 20th century science, in which nothing is as it seems — not space, not time, not matter.
Even more than his ideas, however, his life has become a rich tale of success against adversity, a cosmic fairy tale, and finally, a movie.