Stephen William Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.
Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England, to Frank (1905–1986).
Hawking has a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease, that has gradually paralyzed him over the decade. In 2005, he began to control his communication device with movements of his cheek muscles, with a rate of about one word per minute.With this decline there is a risk of him developing locked-in syndrome, so Hawking is collaborating with researchers on systems that could translate his brain patterns or facial expressions into switch activation’s. By 2009 he could no longer drive his wheelchair independently. He has increased breathing difficulties, requiring a ventilator at times and has been hospitalized several times.Some people say Hawking is the man of science himself.
Hawking’s key exploration is in the areas of theoretical cosmology, focusing on the evolution of the universe as governed by the laws of general relativity. He is most known for his work in the study of black holes.Hawking became a member of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge in 1968 and the discoveries of cosmologist, Roger Penrose, on black hole really fascinated him as he himself was working on the phenomena that began the Universe.In 1970, Hawking discovered the second law of black hole dynamics— that the event horizon of a black hole can never get smaller. Along with, James M. Bardeen and Brandon Carter, he proposed the four laws of black hole mechanics.Hawking visited Moscow in 1973 and his discussions with Yakov Borisovich Zel’dovich and Alexei Starobinsky helped him to come up with ‘Hawking radiation’. In the following year, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society.He started to get more recognition for his discoveries through his print and TV interviews and in 1975 he was awarded the Eddington Medal and the Pius XI Gold Medal, followed by the Dannie Heineman Prize, the Maxwell Prize, etc.Hawking was now appointed as a professor with a chair in gravitational physics in 1977 and received the Albert Einstein Medal and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.He gradually started losing control over his speech and it became increasing difficult to understand him but that this did not stop him from getting appointed as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Cambridge University in 1979.In 1982, Hawking and Gary Gibbons organized a Nuffield Workshop on the topic ‘The Very Early Universe’ at Cambridge University, which focused principally on the cosmological inflation theory. He published a model, the ‘Hartle-Hawking state’ with Jim Hartle, which stated that before the Big Bang, time did not exist and the concept of the beginning of the universe is meaningless.
In 1985, he lost his voice after a tracheotomy. As a result of this, he required 24-hour care. His condition caught attention of a Californian computer programmer, who invented a speaking program that could be directed by head or eye movement.Hawking gained the international prominence for the first time in 1988 with the publication of ‘A Brief History of Time’. It was meant to be a simplified version of cosmology for the masses and became an instant bestseller.In 1993, he co-edited a book on Euclidean quantum gravity with Gary Gibbons, and published a collected edition of his own articles on black holes and his series of lectures were published as ‘The Nature of Space and Time’.A famous collection of essays, interviews and talk titled ‘Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays’ was published in 1993. It was followed by a six-part television series ‘Stephen Hawking’s Universe’ and a companion book.He wrote an easy to read book on cosmology in 2001, ‘The Universe in Nutshell’, which was followed by, ‘A Briefer History of Time (2005), ‘God Created the Integers (2006)’, ‘God’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007)’, etc.He made constant appearance on television during this period, in documentaries like—‘The Real Stephen Hawking (2001)’, ‘Stephen Hawking: Profile (2002)’, ‘Hawking (2004)’, ‘Stephen Hawking, Master of the Universe (2008)’, etc.Hawking retired as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 2009, owing to University rules and regulations. He has continued to work as a director of research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
Hawking became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and since then, he has been honored with the highest degree awards like— the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Paul Dirac Medal, etc.
Other honors include—the Wolf Prize, he was named a Companion of Honor by Her Highness, Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize, the Copley Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Russian Fundamental Physics Prize, etc.
Hawking met his wife, Jane Wilde, a friend of his sister, shortly before the diagnosis of his illness. The couple got married in 1965. They had three children together: Robert, Lucy and Timothy. Jane was a pillar of strength for Hawking in the beginning of their marriage but with his regressing physical condition and increasing global popularity, their marriage became a big burden on Jane and tension started to brew in their relationship.