Stephen William Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 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. He was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.
His constant and tremendous contribution to the scientific community- included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Well, we very well know about his contribution the science and society, but let us know about his childhood, college days and marriage and interest in different areas apart from his core subject in this post. Read the amazing facts about Professor Stephen Hawking.
Stephen Hawking was a mediocre student, in fact, he wasn’t able to read properly until he was 8 years old, and his grades never surpassed the average scores of his classmates at St. Albans School.
Stephen Hawking was born January 8, 1942, on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death. Interestingly, he died today, March 14th, on the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth.
Stephen Hawking’s father had excelled in medicine and also expected the same from him. However, he never had interest in biology and was inclined towards mathematics.
He once built a computer with his friends as a teenager. From then his classmates gave him a nickname- Einstein. He also had an almost unbelievable understanding of space and time, which shocked everyone.
He got into Oxford at the age of 17, on the full scholarship. He joined the rowing team of the college because he initially felt lonely there. He was recruited for the position where the athlete does not row but controls the direction of the boat.
He did almost die after contracting pneumonia while traveling to Geneva in 1985. While he was unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator, the option of removing the fragile scientist from life support was being considered until his then-wife, Jane, rejected the idea. Hawking instead underwent a tracheotomy, an operation that helped him breathe but permanently took away his ability to speak, prompting the creation of his famous speech synthesizer.
His original synthesizer was created by a California-based company called Words Plus, which ran a speech program called Equalizer on an Apple II computer. Adapted to a portable system that could be mounted on a wheelchair, the program enabled Hawking to “speak” by using a hand clicker to choose words on a screen.
After he eventually lost the use of his hands, Hawking had an infrared switch mounted on his glasses that generated words by detecting cheek movement. He also had the communication technology overhauled by Intel, though he insisted on retaining the same robotic voice with its distinctly non-British accent he’d been using for three decades, as he considered it an indelible part of his identity.
Hawking always wanted to write a book about the mysteries of the universe that would connect with the people, However, he painstakingly pressed forward with his speech synthesizer, receiving valuable assistance from students who relayed draft revisions with his editor in the U.S. via speakerphone. Hawking’s vision ultimately was realized, as A Brief History of Time arrived on the London Sunday Times best-seller list for 237 weeks after its publication in 1988.
He went on to write his biography, several other books about his field and a series of science-themed novels, co-written with his daughter, Lucy.
Despite his extraordinary physical challenges, Hawking wasn’t shy about appearing on television. He appeared in the animated version of Stephen Hawking- The Simpsons for which he lent his voice himself. He was also seen on Star Trek: Next Generation, sharing jokes with Einstein and Newton. He has also featured in documentary shows like Stephen Hawking: Master of the Universe and Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.
Oxford didn’t have mathematics as a major. The compromise was that Stephen would attend Oxford and major in physics. Later even within physics, he focused on the bigger questions. When faced with deciding between the two tracks of particle physics, which studies the behavior of subatomic particles, versus cosmology, which studies the large universe as a whole, he chose the latter. He chose cosmology despite the fact that, at that time, he says, it was “hardly recognized as a legitimate field”. In explaining why he said that particle physics “seemed like botany. There were all these particles, but no theory”.
At the age of 21, he entered the hospital for two weeks of tests to discover what was wrong with him. He was then diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurological disease that causes patients to lose control of their voluntary muscles. He was told he’d probably only have a few years to live.