Biography of Stephen Hawking, Physicist and Cosmologist

What You Should Know About Stephen Hawking

Photo Stephen Hawking

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Stephen Hawking is one of the most world-renowned of modern cosmologists and physicists. His theories 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 his keen mind within physics, he gained respect throughout the world as a science communicator. His 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 severe debility caused by the disease known as ALS, which "should" have been fatal decades earlier, according to the average prognosis of the condition.

Basic Information About Stephen Hawking

Born: January 8, 1942, Oxfordshire, England

Stephen Hawking died on March 14, 2018, at his home in Cambridge, England.

Degrees:

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

Marriages:

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

Children:

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

Stephen Hawking - Fields of Study

Hawking's major research was in the areas of theoretical cosmology, focusing on the evolution of the universe as governed by the laws of general relativity. He was most well known for his work in the study of black holes. Through his work, Hawking was able to:

  • Prove that singularities are general features of spacetime.
  • Provide a mathematical proof that information which fell into a black hole was lost.
  • Demonstrate 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 confessed 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, 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 lost his ability to speak, so he utilized a device capable of translating his eye movements (since he could 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 retired from this post at age 67, in the spring of 2009, though he continued his 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 wrote a number of popular books:

  • 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

Thanks to his distinctive appearance, voice, and popularity, Stephen Hawking was represented often in popular culture. He made appearances on the popular television shows The Simpsons and Futurama, as well as a cameo on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993. Hawking's voice was also emulated in the creation of a "gangsta rap" style CD by MC Hawking: A Brief History of Rhyme.

The Theory of Everything, a biographical drama film about Hawking's life, was released in 2014.