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 eleven Stephen went to St
Albans School, and then on to University College, Oxford, his father's old
college. Stephen wanted to do Mathematics, although his father would have
preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he
did Physics instead. After three years and not very much work he was awarded a
first class honours degree in Natural Science.
At the age of 20, Hawking went on
to do research in Cosmology at Cambridge. This was also about the time when he
was diagnosed with the incurable disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). He
slowly lost control of his muscles and was told would die within a few years. At
first, Hawking was shocked and upset. He could not find a reason for living
before he met his wife Jane Wilde. Later the progress of his illness slowed
down, and he finished his Ph.D.
is a picture of Stephen, and two actors portraying Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton
, taken on the set of Startrek: The Next Generation, while Stephen was
being filmed for an episode.
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, and since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.
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.
Unfortunately in 1985, Hawking
caught pneumonia and had a tracheotomy operation, which removed his voice. He
had some difficult time to communicate with others. This situation was not
relieved until he had a small portable computer and a speech synthesizer fitted
to his wheelchair by David Mason of 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 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 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 and most
recently in 2001, The Universe in a Nutshell.
Professor Hawking has twelve
honorary degrees, 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 and 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 one grandchild), and his research
into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and