Cosmologist Stephen Hawking Boycotts Israeli Conference
Dr. Stephen Hawking is brought onstage by a helper to give his presentation, "The Origin of the Universe," at Caltech on April 16, 2013.
Credit: Rod Pyle/SPACE.com

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking has decided to pull out of a major Israeli conference slated for June 18-20 in Jerusalem, stating his support of an academic boycott of the country, according to news reports.

"This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there," reads a statement by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), which is an organization of U.K.-based academics set up in response to the Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott.

(That statement was approved by Hawking, according to BBC News.)

The conference, the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, will celebrate the 90th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres, according to the BBC. The fifth such annual conference "will look at tomorrow and engage the central issues that will influence the face of our future: geopolitics, economics, society, environment, culture, identity, education, new media, and more," according to the conference website.

The 71-year-old cosmologist was set to give an address at the conference, where former U.S. President Bill Clinton is scheduled to receive an award and other big names are slated to speak, including David Axelrod (a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama), actress Sharon Stone and Harvard professor emeritus Lawrence Summers, among others, according to the conference schedule.

"The situation is that he's discussed it with fellow academics and has decided, for personal reasons, not to attend the conference in June," a University of Cambridge spokesman said, as quoted by the BBC.

Regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists and greatest minds since Albert Einstein, Hawking, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS), has contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. He determined that on the quantum mechanical level, matter can actually escape from black holes, and that black holes emit particles in a process he called Hawking radiation.

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