Stephen Hawking Biography

What You Should Know About Stephen Hawking

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British physicist Stephen Hawking is one of the most world-renowned of modern physicists. His theories have provided deep insights into the connections between quantum physics and relativity, including how those concepts might be united in explaining fundamental questions related to the development of the universe and the formation of black holes. In addition to being a keen mind within physics, he has gained respect throughout the world as a science communicator.

The achievements are impressive enough on their own, but at least part of the reason he is so universally respected is that he was able to accomplish them while suffering the severe debility of the disease ALS, which "should" have been fatal decades ago, according to the average prognosis of the condition.

Basic Information About Stephen Hawking

Born: January 8, 1942, Oxfordshire, England


  • B.A., University College, Oxford, 1962
  • Ph.D., Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1966


  • Jane Wilde, 1965 to 1991
  • Elaine Mason, 1995 to 2006


  • Robert, born 1967
  • Lucy, 1969
  • Timothy, 1979

Stephen Hawking - Fields of Study

Hawking's major research is in the areas of theoretical cosmology, focusing on the evolution of the universe as governed by the laws of general relativity. He is most well known for his work in the study of black holes. Among the work that Hawking has been instrumental in developing have included:

  • Proved that singularities are general features of spacetime
  • Provided a mathematical proof that information which fell into a black hole was lost
  • Demonstrated that black holes evaporate through Hawking radiation

Stephen Hawking - Medical Condition

At age 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).

Given only three years to live, he confesses that this helped motivate him in his physics work. There is little doubt that his ability to remain actively engaged with the world through his scientific work, and also through the support of family and friends, has helped him persevere in the face of the disease. This is vividly portrayed in the dramatic film The Theory of Everything.

As part of his condition, Hawking has lost his ability to speak, so he utilizes device that can translate his eye movements (since he can no longer utilize a keypad) to speak in a digitized voice.

Hawking's Physics Career

For most of his career, Hawking served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton. Following a long tradition, Hawking is retiring this position at age 67, in spring of 2009, though he will continue research at the University's cosmology institute. In 2008 he also accepted a position as a visiting researcher at Waterloo, Ontario's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Popular Publications

In addition to a variety of textbooks on the subjects of general relativity and cosmology, Stephen Hawking has written a number of popular books on these subjects:

  • A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988)
  • The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants (2002)
  • A Briefer History of Time (2005)
  • God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2007)
  • George's Secret Key to the Universe with Lucy Hawking (2007)
  • George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt with Lucy Hawking (2009)
  • The Grand Design with Leonard Mlodinow (2010)
  • My Brief History - an autobiography

Stephen Hawking in Popular Culture

Stephen Hawking's distinctive appearance, voice, and popularity have caused him to be represented in the popular culture. He's made appearances on the popular television shows The Simpsons, Futurama, as well as a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993 and . Hawking's voice has also been emulated in the creation of a "gangsta rap" style CD by M.C.

Hawking: A Brief History of Rhyme. The Theory of Everything, a biographical dramatic film about Hawking's life, was released in 2014.

Edited by Anne Marie Helmenstine