Isaac Newton might be one of the most influential scientists ever to grace the planet, but he understood that knowledge is cumulative. While one person might be able to make an incredible discovery, it could not be possible without the collective wisdom of others. Newton himself once remarked, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is now following suit by honoring the giant whose shoulders he stood on: a math teacher named Dikran Tahta.
In a video for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, Hawking describes the impact Tahta made on him.
"He opened my eyes to the blueprint of the Universe itself: mathematics," Hawking states in the video.
Though Hawking admits he wasn't a great student and was often bored in school, Mr. Tahta's passion ignited a powerful curiosity that would lead to some of the biggest ideas in physics of the 20th century. The love of math and science Tahta instilled in Hawking would also lead him occupy one of the most prestigious chairs in academia.
"Thanks to Mr. Tahta, I became a professor of mathematics at Cambridge," Hawking says, "in a position once held by Isaac Newton."
Hawking's touching video reminds us all how powerful a teacher's influence can be, and why we all owe our teachers an enormous debt of gratitude:
Which teacher inspired you the most? Use What Happened When Teachers Found Out How Students Felt About Them.
Cover image: The Tahta Family / Jemal Countess / Getty Images