A Brief History of Stephen Hawking’s Life
Stephen Hawking is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author. This biography offers detailed information about his childhood, career, life, achievements, trivia and timeline.
Also Known As: Stephen William Hawking
Famous As: Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist
Birth Date: January 8, 1942
Age: 76 Years
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Height: 1.69 M
Born In: Oxford
Father: Frank Hawking
Mother: Isobel Hawking
Siblings: Edward Hawking, Mary Hawking, Philippa Hawking Spouse/Ex-Spouse: Elaine Mason, Jane Wilde
Children: Lucy Hawking, Robert Hawking, Timothy Hawking
Religion: Agnosticism, Atheism, Pantheism
Diseases & Disabilities: Quadriplegia
Founder/Co-Founder: Microsoft Research
Net Worth: $20 Million As Of Nov 17, 2016
Education: 1962 – University Of Oxford, 1966-03 – Trinity Hall, Cambridge, St Albans School, St Albans High School For Girls
Awards: 1978 – Albert Einstein Award
1988 – Wolf Prize
1989 – Prince Of Asturias Award
2006 – Copley Medal
2009 – Presidential Medal Of Freedom
2012 – Special Fundamental Physics Prize
Stephen William Hawking is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. His key exploration 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 known for his work in the study of black holes. With the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, a theory called ‘Hawking radiation’, he became the first to set forth a cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking suffers from a rare and life-threatening condition of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a condition he has suffered for all of his adult life. It started when he was only 21 years old while he was pursuing PhD from Cambridge University and now is almost completely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device. But not succumbing to the despair of the disease, Hawking devoted all of his life to his work and research. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for around three decades and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. For his contribution to the study of universe and his pioneering work in cosmology, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Childhood & Early Life
Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England, to Frank and Isobel Hawking. His father was a medical researcher. He belonged to a family of well read people – his mother was one of the first female students who graduated from the Oxford.
Hawking was born when his family as well as the whole nation was going through a financial crunch because of the ongoing WW II. He was the eldest out of the four children.
His father became the head of the Division of Parasitology at the National Institute of Medical Research and went to Africa for research – he aspired for him to become a doctor but Hawking showed more interest in astronomy.
He attended St Albans School but he was never a conventionally brilliant student, rather he was more interested in what happened outside the classroom, and spent his time and energy in inventing new things.
Later, against his father’s wishes, he made plans to pursue mathematics as his major but it was not the subject that was taught in Oxford University at the time so he had to take up physics and chemistry instead.
He still did not pay too much attention to the bookish studies and spent his time devising innovative techniques. In 1962, he graduated with honors, and went on to attend the University of Cambridge for a Ph.D. in cosmology.
During his first year, Hawking started to show abnormal physical symptoms; he would suddenly trip and fall or his speech slurred. He suppressed these symptoms but when his father noticed them, he was sent for a series of tests.
It was diagnosed that he was in the early stages of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which meant that the part of his nervous system that was responsible for muscle control was shutting down—a life threatening condition.
- With this new found realization of the suddenness of death and the fact that according to the doctors he only had another two years to live, Hawking started concentrating fully on his research work.
Hawking became a member of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge in 1968 and the discoveries of cosmologist, Roger Penrose, on black hole really fascinated him as he himself was working on the phenomena that began the Universe.
In 1970, Hawking discovered the second law of black hole dynamics— that the event horizon of a black hole can never get smaller. Along with, James M. Bardeen and Brandon Carter, he proposed the four laws of black hole mechanics.
Hawking visited Moscow in 1973 and his discussions with Yakov Borisovich Zel’dovich and Alexei Starobinsky helped him to come up with ‘Hawking radiation’. In the following year, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
He started to get more recognition for his discoveries through his print and TV interviews and in 1975 he was awarded the Eddington Medal and the Pius XI Gold Medal, followed by the Dannie Heineman Prize, the Maxwell Prize, etc.
Hawking was now appointed as a professor with a chair in gravitational physics in 1977 and received the Albert Einstein Medal and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.
He gradually started losing control over his speech and it became increasing difficult to understand him but that this did not stop him from getting appointed as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Cambridge University in 1979.
- In 1982, Hawking and Gary Gibbons organized a Nuffield Workshop on the topic ‘The Very Early Universe’ at Cambridge University, which focused principally on the cosmological inflation theory.
- Hawking retired as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 2009, owing to University rules and regulations. He has continued to work as a director of research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
- Hawking’s key exploration 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 known for his work in the study of black holes.
Awards & Achievements
Hawking became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and since then, he has been honored with the highest degree awards like— the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Paul Dirac Medal, etc.
- Other honors include—the Wolf Prize, he was named a Companion of Honor by Her Highness, Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize, the Copley Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Russian Fundamental Physics Prize, etc.
Personal Life & Legacy
- He met his wife, Jane Wilde, a friend of his sister, shortly before the diagnosis of his illness. The couple got married in 1965. They had three children together: Robert, Lucy and Timothy. Jane was a pillar of strength for Hawking in the beginning of their marriage but with his regressing physical condition and increasing global popularity, their marriage became a big burden on Jane and tension started to brew in their relationship.
During the late 1980, Hawking got involved in an affair with one of his nurses, Elaine Manson and left Jane for her. He took a divorce from Jane and married Manson in 1995. Their marriage proved to be detrimental to Hawking’s family life and he withdrew from the lives of his children. It was suspected that Elaine was physically abusing him but Hawking denied it. He took a divorce from her in 2006.
Hawking’s physical condition is deteriorating day by day; he began to control his communication device with movements of his cheek muscles in 2005, which may lead to a risk of locked-in syndrome.
He can no longer drive his wheelchair; he requires a ventilator at times and has been hospitalized several times since 2009. He is closely working with researchers on systems that could translate his brain patterns into switch activations.
Stephen W. Hawking Science Museum in San Salvador, El Salvador, the Stephen Hawking Building in Cambridge and the Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute in Canada—are all named after him.
He participated in zero-gravity flight in a ‘Vomit Comet’, courtesy of Zero Gravity Corporation, during which he experienced weightlessness eight times in 2007.
His first wife, Jane, wrote books like, ‘Travelling to Infinity’, ‘My Life with Stephen’, etc.
Jane met organist Jonathan Hellyer Jones while singing in a church choir in 1977 and they developed a love relationship but Hawking did not object to it saying that as long as she still loved him, he is alright with their platonic relationship.
He appeared on the famous American sitcom, ‘Big Bang Theory’.
- Hawking believes that human life is at risk and said that, “a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of” can wipe us off the earth.
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