Ondertexts
Stephen Hawking
Search

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking Stephen Hawking[1†]

Stephen William Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge[1†][2†]. His work revolutionized cosmology and he became a key figure in the scientific community, despite his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative neuromuscular disease[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England[2†]. His parents, Frank and Isobel Hawking, both attended Oxford University, where Frank studied medicine and Isobel studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics[2†]. Despite the ongoing Second World War, his mother went to Oxford to give birth in greater safety[2†]. He has two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward[2†].

Hawking began his schooling at the Byron House School, but he later blamed its “progressive methods” for his failure to learn to read while at the school[2†]. In 1950, when his father became head of the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research, Hawking and his family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire[2†]. The eight-year-old Hawking attended St Albans High School for Girls for a few months; at that time, younger boys could attend one of the houses[2†].

In St Albans, the family were considered highly intelligent and somewhat eccentric; meals were often spent with each person silently reading a book[2†]. They lived a frugal existence in a large, cluttered, and poorly maintained house, and travelled in a converted London taxicab[2†]. During one of Hawking’s father’s frequent absences working in Africa, the rest of the family spent four months in Majorca visiting his mother’s friend Beryl and her husband, the poet Robert Graves[2†].

On their return to England, Hawking attended Radlett School for a year and from September 1952, St Albans School[2†]. The family placed a high value on education[2†]. Hawking’s father wanted his son to attend the well-regarded Westminster School, but the 13-year-old Hawking was ill on the day of the scholarship examination[2†]. His family could not afford the school fees without the financial aid of a scholarship, so Hawking remained at St Albans[2†]. A positive consequence was that Hawking remained with a close group of friends with whom he enjoyed board games, the manufacture of fireworks, model aeroplanes and boats, and long discussions about Christianity and extrasensory perception[2†]. From 1958, and with the help of the mathematics teacher Dikran Tahta, they built a computer from clock parts, an old telephone switchboard and other recycled components[2†].

Although at school he was known as “Einstein”, Hawking was not initially successful academically[2†]. With time, he began to show considerable aptitude for scientific subjects, and inspired by Tahta, decided to study mathematics at university[2†]. Hawking’s father advised him to study medicine, concerned that there were few jobs for mathematics graduates[2†]. He wanted Hawking to attend University College, Oxford, his own alma mater[2†]. As it was not possible to read mathematics there at the time, Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry[2†]. He studied physics and chemistry at Oxford University, and because he found it really easy at the beginning, he didn’t study a lot for the final exams[2†][3†]. In 1962, he graduated with first-class honors and left for Cambridge University to begin his Ph.D[2†][4†].

Career Development and Achievements

After graduating from Oxford University in 1962, Stephen Hawking moved to Cambridge University to begin his Ph.D[2†][1†]. He was elected a research fellow at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge[2†]. Despite being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the early 1960s, an incurable degenerative neuromuscular disease, Hawking continued to work despite the disease’s progressively disabling effects[2†].

Hawking’s primary field of work was general relativity, particularly focusing on the physics of black holes[2†][1†]. In 1971, he suggested the formation of numerous objects, following the big bang, containing as much as one billion tons of mass but occupying only the space of a proton[2†]. These objects, called mini black holes, are unique in that their immense mass and gravity require that they be ruled by the laws of relativity, while their minute size requires that the laws of quantum mechanics apply to them also[2†].

In 1974, Hawking proposed that, in accordance with the predictions of quantum theory, black holes emit subatomic particles until they exhaust their energy and finally explode[2†]. This theory, known as Hawking radiation, drew upon both relativity theory and quantum mechanics[2†]. His work greatly spurred efforts to theoretically delineate the properties of black holes, about which it was previously thought that nothing could be known[2†].

Hawking’s work helped revolutionize the field of astrophysics[2†][5†]. His scholarship helped elucidate our modern understanding of the universe and its origins[2†][5†]. He was quick to share his views on humanity and society[2†][5†].

Throughout his career, Hawking received several awards for his groundbreaking work, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom[2†][1†][6†][7†]. He was also awarded the Albert Einstein Award for his significant contributions to Albert Einstein’s theories[2†][7†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Stephen Hawking’s scientific works significantly contributed to the field of theoretical physics and cosmology. His main works include:

  1. Hawking Radiation: Hawking’s theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation, was initially controversial[1†]. This work drew upon both relativity theory and quantum mechanics[1†][2†].
  2. Singularities and Black Holes: Hawking collaborated with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity[1†]. He also worked extensively on the physics of black holes[1†][2†].
  3. Cosmic Inflation Theory: Hawking made significant contributions to the cosmic inflation theory[1†][8†].
  4. Model on the Wave Function of the Universe: He proposed a model on the wave function of the universe[1†][8†].
  5. Top-Down Theory on Cosmology: Hawking’s top-down theory on cosmology is another one of his important discoveries[1†][8†].

In addition to his scientific works, Hawking is also known for his popular science books. His best-seller, “A Brief History of Time”, made complex scientific theories accessible to a wide audience[1†][9†]. Other popular works include “Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays” (1993), “The Universe in a Nutshell” (2001), “On The Shoulders of Giants” (2002), and “God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History” (2005)[1†][6†].

These works have not only contributed to scientific knowledge but also sparked interest in theoretical physics and cosmology among the general public[1†][2†][6†][9†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Stephen Hawking’s work has had a profound impact on our understanding of the universe. His theories have revolutionized the field of cosmology and theoretical physics[10†][2†].

Hawking’s theory of black holes emitting radiation, known as Hawking radiation, was initially controversial[10†]. However, it has since become a cornerstone of our understanding of black holes[10†]. This theory, which combines elements of quantum mechanics and relativity, suggests that black holes slowly lose mass and energy over time, eventually disappearing entirely[10†][11†]. This was a groundbreaking idea, as it was previously thought that nothing could escape a black hole[10†][2†].

Hawking also made significant contributions to the theory of cosmic inflation[10†]. His work on the wave function of the universe and his top-down theory of cosmology have furthered our understanding of the universe’s origins and structure[10†].

Despite his physical limitations due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Hawking continued to work and make significant contributions to science[10†][2†]. His determination and resilience have been an inspiration to many[10†].

Hawking’s ability to explain complex scientific concepts in an accessible way has also had a significant impact. His book, “A Brief History of Time”, has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into more than 35 languages[10†]. His work has sparked interest in theoretical physics and cosmology among the general public[10†].

In conclusion, Stephen Hawking’s work has greatly advanced our understanding of black holes, the Big Bang, and other fundamental aspects of the universe[10†][2†]. His legacy continues to shape the field of theoretical physics[10†].

Personal Life

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England[1†][2†]. He was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 22[1†][12†]. Despite the challenges posed by his health condition, Hawking continued to work and make significant contributions to science[1†][2†].

In his personal life, Hawking married Jane Wilde, a language student, in 1965[1†][13†]. They had three children: Lucy, Robert, and Tim[1†][13†]. The couple separated in 1991[1†][13†]. The strain of Stephen’s illness and of sharing their home with a team of nurses became too much and they divorced in 1995[1†][14†]. Despite his health challenges, Hawking continued to work and contribute significantly to the field of theoretical physics[1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Stephen Hawking’s legacy is vast and enduring. His theories on the origins and nature of the universe revolutionized modern physics[10†][15†]. His best-selling books, including “A Brief History of Time”, made the field widely accessible to millions of readers worldwide[10†][15†]. His work changed how the world understands the universe[10†][16†].

Despite being diagnosed with a degenerative motor-neurone disease at a young age, Hawking led a full and complete life[10†][17†]. His scientific work inspired generations of students to study problems of gravity and quantum mechanics[10†][15†]. His efforts to quantize gravity continue to drive progress in fundamental physics today[10†][15†].

Hawking’s courage, persistence, brilliance, and humor inspired people across the world[10†]. He once said, "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love."[10†] His life and work serve as a testament to the power of the human spirit and the pursuit of knowledge.

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Stephen Hawking [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Stephen Hawking: British physicist [website] - link
  3. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Stephen Hawking [website] - link
  4. BYJU’S Blog - A Biographical Sketch Of Stephen Hawking With Early Life And Achievements! [website] - link
  5. Inverse - What Did Stephen Hawking Do? The Physicist's 5 Biggest Achievements [website] - link
  6. Learnodo Newtonic - 10 Major Accomplishments of Stephen Hawking [website] - link
  7. ealthResearchFunding.org - 6 Major Accomplishments of Stephen Hawking [website] - link
  8. JagranJosh.com - 6 important discoveries of Stephen Hawking [website] - link
  9. Goodreads - Book: Stephen Hawking's Life Works: The Cambridge Lectures [website] - link
  10. New Scientist - A brief history of Stephen Hawking: A legacy of paradox [website] - link
  11. The Guardian - What has Stephen Hawking done for science? [website] - link
  12. BBC News UK - Stephen Hawking: A life in pictures [website] - link
  13. Famous Scientists - Stephen Hawking - Biography, Facts and Pictures [website] - link
  14. Nature - Stephen Hawking (1942–2018) [website] - link
  15. Physics World - Stephen Hawking’s scientific legacy [website] - link
  16. Google Doodles - Honoring Stephen Hawking’s scientific legacy [website] - link
  17. Florida State University - College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences - Remembering the Legacy of Stephen Hawking [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.