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Hawking honoured by Obama

14th August 2009

Stephen Hawking has collected the highest civil honour available in the US, after President Obama bestowed the presidential medal of freedom on the renowned astro-physicist.

The author of A Brief History of Time was one of 16 recipients of the medal, including former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner Mary Robinson and the South African apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The president, who joked that he would not attempt to explain further the Cambridge professor's theories on theoretical physics, said his insights on the cosmos had 'stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on earth'.

'This is a chance for me and for the United States of America to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country, and of all countries,' he told those gathered at the White House.

Among those being recognised for their contributions was Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office and the subject of the Oscar-winning portrayal by Sean Penn in the eponymous film. Mr Milk, who was shot in 1978, was given a posthumous award, as the president picked out his heroes and heroines.

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