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Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

Stephen William Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. His parents' house was in north London, but during the second world war, Oxford was considered a safer place to have babies. When he was eight, his family moved to St. Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to St. Albans School and then on to University College, Oxford; his father's old college. Stephen wanted to study Mathematics, although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he pursued Physics instead. After three years and not very much work, he was awarded a first class honours degree in Natural Science.

Stephen then went on to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology, there being no one working in that area in Oxford at the time. His supervisor was Denis Sciama, although he had hoped to get Fred Hoyle who was working in Cambridge. After gaining his Ph.D. he became first a Research Fellow and later on a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. After leaving the Institute of Astronomy in 1973, Stephen came to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1979, and held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1979 until 2009. The chair was founded in 1663 with money left in the will of the Reverend Henry Lucas who had been the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by Isaac Barrow and then in 1669 by Isaac Newton.  He is currently the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, at DAMTP in Cambridge. 

Stephen Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated that it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great Scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.

His many publications include The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravity, with W Israel. Stephen Hawking has three popular books published; his best seller A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, and most recently in 2010, The Grand Design. There are .pdf and .ps versions of his full publication list.

Professor Hawking has twelve honorary degrees. He was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He is the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes, is a Fellow of The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and three grandchildren), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures.

Facts About Stephen W. Hawking

Notable Honors: Eddington Medal (1975), Hughes Medal of the Royal Society (1976), Albert Einstein Medal (1979), Order of the British Empire (1982), Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985), Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1986), Wolf Prize in Physics (1988), Prince of Asturias Award (1989), Companion of Honour (1989), Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society (1999), Michelson Morley Award of Case Western Reserve University (2003), Copley Medal of the Royal Society (2006), 12 Honorary Degrees, Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Cosmos Award from the Planetary Society (2010)



Notable Achievements in the Field of Astronomy and Physics

  • In 1970, Hawking was able to show that black holes give off radiation.

  • Working with Roger Penrose, Hawking was able to create a number of new mathematical concepts to study  Einstein 's theory of general relativity in relation to cosmology.


  • Postulating that the  Big Bang  began the universe and Black Holes would ultimately be the end, Hawking and Penrose determined that the theory of General Relativity and Quantum Theory needed to be combined.


  • In 1983, he worked with James Hartle on the "No Boundary Proposal". This stated that both time and space have no boundaries, therefore the laws of science exist everywhere.

  • His greatest work, A Brief History of Time was published in 1988. The book stayed on the best-seller list for 237 weeks and sold nine million copies. It has also been translated into 33 languages.




Amazing Facts

In July 2004, Hawking lost a long-time bet with Kip Thorne from CalTech. Originally, Hawking postulated that no information can cross the event horizon of a black hole. However, at the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland, he announced that he believed black holes will eventually transmit information about the matter that is swallowed.

In preparation for his 2009 sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne, Hawking flew on the Zero Gravity Corporation's “Vomit Comet” on April 26, 2007. This made Hawking the first quadriplegic to float in zero gravity.

Stephen Hawking has also been canonized in two popular science fiction programs, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf as well as a guest appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

With all of his professional success, perhaps Stephen Hawking's greatest achievement is his overcoming extensive medical problems. While in his last year of college, he began to lose motor control of his body. In 1963, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as  Lou Gehrig's Disease . Hawking's condition continued to deteriorate until he was confined to a wheelchair.

While at the Geneva CERN particle accelerator in 1985, Hawking was again afflicted with another illness. He fell ill with pneumonia and was placed on life support. After being flown to Cambridge, he was sent to Addenbrooke's Hospital, which performed a tracheotomy. This save his life, however left him without a voice. This is how he was forced to use the famous computer system which gives him an electronic voice.

On April 20, 2009, Hawking was hospitalized for a chest infection. He was again admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital and made a full recovery. This event, combined with the rigors of aging, prompted Hawking to make a decision to step down as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge