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A Brief History of Hawking

Stephen Hawking, the world famous physicist, celebrated his 60th birthday on Tuesday, January 8th.


Bringing puzzling physics to a mass audience - Stephen Hawking

A first class scientist despite a tragic disability, Hawking has achieved a popular status enjoyed by only few physicists. He even made it to appearances on shows such as Star Trek and the Simpsons.

He celebrated his 60th birthday on January 8, 2002.

It was due to his book "A Brief History of Time" that Hawking made a public breakthrough, his book turning up on coffee tables and bedside drawers all over the world. His book soon became an international best-seller but is also known to be one those works rarely completed by readers due to the sheer complexity of his concepts.

On his website, Hawking explains that one of his greatest achievements was to show, together with Sir Roger Penrose, that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies space and time, 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, another great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century.

Hawking discovered that one consequence of this unification was that black holes were not totally black, but should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear.

Not remarkably perturbed

Professor Hawking has 12 honoraray degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982 and was made Companion of Honour in 1989.

He has received various medals, awards and prizes, however, Hawking will always be known for his achievements despite being heavily disabled with ALS, or motor neurone disease, an illness which cripples and deforms the body and finally leads to death.

"I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot" – Hawkings is remarkably collected about his afflictions, which have bound him to a wheelchair and a life as a cripple. "I try to live a life as normal as possible, and not not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me doing," he says.

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease when he was a young man, studying at Cambridge.

As a child he was never good at ball games, and teachers dispaired at his handwriting. But it was a good decade later, that he started to become increasingly clumsy, and began falling over without any apparent reason.

In his early twenties he was diagnosed with an incurable disease of the nerves.

As no one could say just how rapidly the disease would spread, the doctors told him to go back to Cambridge and get on with his research.

But life was not the same as before – "although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before".

Hawkings made progress with his research and married – which "gave me something to live for," he says.

Hawkings commenced with his work in theoretical physics, one area in which his condition would not be a serious handicap.

Stephen Hawkings has three children and one grandchild. He is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton, in Cambridge.

Studying the basic laws governing the Universe, he still holds lectures and regularly reports in articles and books on his work.

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