Stephen Hawking
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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I’m sure my disability has a bearing on why I’m well known. People are fascinated by the contrast between my very limited physical powers, and the vast nature of the universe I deal with.

My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.

My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.

Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen.

Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales.

The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.

There are grounds for cautious optimism that we may now be near the end ofthe search for the ultimate laws of nature.

To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.


Stephen William Hawking (born January 8 1942) is one of the world's leading theoretical physicists. Hawking is Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge (a post once held by Isaac Newton), and a fellow of Gonville and Caius College. The fact that he holds this post while being almost completely incapacitated with severe Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis has made him a worldwide celebrity.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England to Frank and Isobel Hawking as their first child. He was educated at St Albans School, Hertfordshire and University College, Oxford, where he obtained a first class honours degree in physics. He moved to Cambridge University to complete his PhD in cosmology at Trinity Hall.

Hawking's principal fields of research are theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity. In 1971, he provided mathematical support for the big-bang theory of the origin of the universe; if the general theory of relativity was correct the universe must have a singularity, or starting point, in space-time. Hawking also suggested that following the big bang primordial, or mini black holes were formed. He showed that the surface area of a black hole can increase but never decrease, that there is a limit on the radiation emitted when black holes collide, and that a single black hole cannot break apart into two separate black holes. In 1974, he calculated that black holes thermally create and emit subatomic particles until they exhaust their energy and explode. Known as Hawking radiation, it linked gravity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics mathematically for the first time. In 1981, Hawking proposed that although the universe has no boundary, it is finite in space-time, and in 1983 he proved this mathematically.

In spite of being severely disabled by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (a form of Motor Neuron Disease), he is highly active in physics, writing, and public life. He first began to show symptoms of the disorder while enrolled in Cambridge. He was diagnosed at the age of 21, shortly before his first marriage. At the time, doctors said he would not live more than about two or three years longer. He battled the odds and has survived much longer, although he has become increasingly disabled by the gradual progress of the disease. He has used an electronic voice synthesizer to communicate since he had a tracheostomy in 1985 following a severe bout of pneumonia. He gradually lost the use of his arms, legs and voice and is now almost completely paralyzed. The computer system attached to his wheelchair is operated by Hawking manually through a single switch, and software called "Equalizer" and "EZKeys" which lets him talk, create speeches, research papers and books, browse the internet, write e-mails and do everything else that one can use a computer for. It also allows control over doors, lights and lifts in his home and at the office via a radio transmitter system.

Being remembered chiefly for his science, there is every chance that he would never have made the discoveries he has were it not for the support of his family. Although he divorced Jane in 1990 (they had 3 children - named Tim, Lucy and Robert - and now have a grandchild), Hawking is still something of a family man. Relationships drive him, not physics. In spite of his disease he describes himself as "lucky" - not just because its slow progress allowed him time to make influential discoveries but because it afforded him time to have, in his own words, "a very attractive family"[1] ( When Jane was asked why she decided to marry a man with a 3-year life expectancy, she responded: "These were the days of atomic gloom and doom, so we all had rather a short life expectancy". He married his second wife Elaine Mason in 1995.
His two books A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell have remained highly popular all over the world and are now classic best-sellers. Anyone interested in the universe, cosmos and how it all began can read them: no previous knowledge in this field is required to enjoy these books. A collection of essays by him - Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays is also extremely popular.

Hawking as himself on Star Trek TNG
In popular culture, he has become a widely admired figure as a genius who has had a successful life despite his severe disability. He had a guest appearance in an episode on the holodeck of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing poker with Data, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton in the episode "Descent, Part I"; perhaps a tribute to his status is that he remains the only person to have appeared as himself in an episode of Star Trek. While passing through the Main Engineering set, Hawking paused near the warp engine, smiled, and said, "I'm working on that." The animated television series The Simpsons and Futurama have occasionally featured him in episodes, and a character playing Hawking has appeared in the television series Dilbert. On Late Night with Conan O'Brien he participated in a bit with Jim Carrey. He also lent his voice to the Pink Floyd song "Keep Talking" from The Division Bell. A Hawking-like character named "Professor Hawk" who used a robot-like voice while flying around in a hawk suit has appeared on a cartoon episode of Dexter's Laboratory. A parody website even has a Hawking-like voice synthesizer rapping about physics

Hawking is famous for his oft-made statement, "When I hear of Schrödinger's cat, I reach for my gun." This was a deliberately ironic paraphrase of Hermann Göring's anti-intellectual quote, "When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my Browning", which itself was from a play by German playwright and Nazi Poet Laureate, Hanns Johst.

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.
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, 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 1663 by Isaac Newton.
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 two popular books published; his best seller A Brief History of Time, and his later book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays.
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 is the author of many works in theoretical physics including A Brief History of Time and of Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
Professor Stephen William Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England. His father was actually based in London as a doctor and this birthplace is as a result of concerns about safety in wartime.
When he was eight years old the family moved to St. Albans, about 20 miles north of London. At St. Albans School where he attended after age 11 he did well but not appear to be amongst the brightest of students.
Hawking's father wanted him to study medicine at Oxford but he was more interested in Mathematics and it eventually transpired that in 1959 he began to study Physics, as University College, which was his father's old college, did not offer degree courses in Mathematics. Although he states in his autobiography that he did not do much work he was nevertheless awarded a first class honors degree in Natural Science in 1962.
He subsequently went on to do research in Cosmology at Cambridge. His life was complicated by his becoming aware of suffering from an illness that was diagnosed as the incurable disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). He was much discomfited by being advised that he would suffer a progressive loss of muscle control and that his life expectancy would be curtailed but with the support of family and friends, including Jane Wilde whom he later married, the progress of his illness slowed down, and he finished his Ph.D.
He worked in various research and teaching roles for a number of years. From 1965 to 1970 he, together with Roger Penrose of Birkbeck College, London, showed that there would be a Big Bang singularity by considering Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Between 1970 and 1974, Hawking concentrated his studies on black holes. He combined Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity into the theory of Hawking Radiation in 1974.
In 1979 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. This professorship had previously been held by a number of particularly eminent mathematicians including Isaac Newton (1664-1669) and Charles Babbage (1828-1839).
In 1983 Hawking and Jim Hurtle of the University of California at Santa Barbara suggested that there is no edge for space and time though they are finite in extent. This implies that the laws of science would be able to determine how the universe had begun!
In 1985 Hawking was unfortunate in contracting a bout of pneumonia that necessitated a tracheotomy operation which removed his powers of speech. Amongst other things this eventuality obviously gave rise to further serious inconvenience in his professional life. The situation was relieved by the fitting of a small portable computer and a speech synthesizer to his wheelchair by David Mason of Cambridge. This arrangement however resulted in the English physicist Stephen Hawking now communicating with an American accent.
Overcoming the obstacle of his illness, Professor Hawking has made great very significant contributions in Physics and has received many awards, medals and prizes worldwide. So far he has been awarded 12 honorary degrees. He received his Commander of the British Empire (CBE) title in 1982 and the Companion of Honor (CH) in 1989. He is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and grandchildren are arriving), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures. He spends about three months of the year outside the United Kingdom and delivers lectures around the world.



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