Stephen Hawking being presented by his daughter Lucy Hawking at the lecture he gave for NASA's 50th anniversary
Hawking in 2007, experiencing zero gravity
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA (born 8 January 1942) is a British theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author. His key scientific works to date have included providing, with Roger Penrose, theorems regarding gravitational singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, which is today known as Hawking radiation (or sometimes as Bekenstein–Hawking radiation).
He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded thePresidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009. Subsequently, he became research director at the university's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.
Hawking has a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition that has progressed over the years. He is now almost completely paralysed and communicates through a speech generating device. He has been married twice and has three children. Hawking has achieved success with works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general; these include A Brief History of Time, which stayed on the British Sunday Times best-sellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.
Early Life & Education:
Stephen Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 to Frank Hawking, a research biologist, and Isobel Hawking. He has two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward. Although Hawking's parents were living in North London, they moved to Oxford while his mother was pregnant with Stephen, desiring a safer location for the birth of their first child (London was under attack at the time by theLuftwaffe).
After Hawking was born, the family moved back to London, where his father headed the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research. In 1950, Hawking and his family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire, where he attended St Albans High School for Girls from 1950 to 1953 (At that time, boys could attend the girls' school until the age of 10). From the age of 11, he attended St Albans School, where he was a good, but not exceptional, student.
Inspired by his mathematics teacher, Hawking originally wanted to study the subject at university. However, Hawking's father wanted him to apply to University College, Oxford, where his father had attended. As University College did not have a mathematics fellow at that time, applications were not accepted from students who wished to study that discipline. Hawking therefore applied to read natural sciences, in which he gained a scholarship. Once at University College, Hawking specialised in physics. His interests during this time were in thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. While at Oxford, he coxed a rowing team, which, he stated, helped relieve his immense boredom at the university. His physics tutor, Robert Berman, later said in The New York Times Magazine: "It was only necessary for him to know that something could be done, and he could do it without looking to see how other people did it. ... Of course, his mind was completely different from all of his contemporaries".
Hawking's unimpressive study habits resulted in a final examination score on the borderline between first and second class honours, making an "oral examination" necessary. Berman said of the oral examination: "And of course the examiners then were intelligent enough to realize they were talking to someone far more clever than most of themselves". After receiving his B.A. degree at Oxford in 1962, he left for graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He earned his Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1966 and has over a dozen honorary degrees.
Almost as soon as he arrived at Cambridge, Hawking started developing symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, known colloquially in the United States as Lou Gehrig's disease), a type of motor neurone disease which would cost him almost all neuromuscular control. During his first two years at Cambridge, he did not distinguish himself, but, after the disease had stabilised and with the help of his doctoral tutor, Dennis William Sciama, he returned to working on his PhD.
In the late 1960s, he and his Cambridge friend and colleague, Roger Penrose, applied a new, complex mathematical model they had created from Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. This led, in 1970, to Hawking proving the first of many singularity theorems; such theorems provide a set of sufficient conditions for the existence of a gravitational singularity in space-time. This work showed that, far from being mathematical curiosities which appear only in special cases, singularities are a fairly generic feature of general relativity.
Hawking was elected one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society in 1974, and in the same year he accepted the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to work with his friend, Kip Thorne, who was a faculty member there. He continues to have ties with Caltech, spending a month each year there since 1992.
He supplied a mathematical proof, along with Brandon Carter, Werner Israel and D. Robinson, of John Wheeler's no-hair theorem – that any black hole is fully described by the three properties of mass, angular momentum, and electric charge. Following analysis of gamma ray emissions, Hawking suggested that after the Big Bang, primordial miniature black holes were formed. With Bardeen and Carter, he proposed the four laws of black hole mechanics, drawing an analogy with thermodynamics. In 1974, he calculated that black holes should thermally create and emit subatomic particles, known today as Bekenstein-Hawking radiation, until they exhaust their energy and evaporate.
In collaboration with Jim Hartle, Hawking developed a model in which the universe had no boundary in space-time, replacing the initial singularity of the classical Big Bang models with a region akin to the North Pole: one cannot travel north of the North Pole, as there is no boundary. While originally the no-boundary proposal predicted a closed universe, discussions with Neil Turok led to the realisation that the no-boundary proposal is also consistent with a universe which is not closed.
Along with Thomas Hertog at CERN, in 2006 Hawking proposed a theory of "top-down cosmology", which says that the universe had no unique initial state, and therefore it is inappropriate for physicists to attempt to formulate a theory that predicts the universe's current configuration from one particular initial state.Top-down cosmology posits that in some sense, the present "selects" the past from a superposition of many possible histories. In doing so, the theory suggests a possible resolution of the fine-tuning question.
Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, taking up the post in 1979 and retiring on 1 October 2009.Subsequently, he became research director at the university's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. He is also a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and a distinguished research chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.
On 19 December 2007, a statue of Hawking by artist Ian Walters was unveiled at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge. The Stephen W. Hawking Science Museum in San Salvador, El Salvador, is named in honour of Stephen Hawking, citing his scientific distinction and perseverance in dealing with adversity.The Stephen Hawking Building in Cambridge opened on 17 April 2007. The building belongs to Gonville and Caius College and is used as an undergraduate accommodation and conference facility.
Awards and honours:
1975 Eddington Medal
1976 Hughes Medal of the Royal Society
1979 Albert Einstein Medal
1981 Franklin Medal
1982 Order of the British Empire (Commander)
1985 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
1986 Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
1988 Wolf Prize in Physics
1989 Companion of Honour
1999 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society
2003 Michelson Morley Award of Case Western Reserve University
2006 Copley Medal of the Royal Society
2008 Fonseca Prize of the University of Santiago de Compostela
2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States
Hawking has stated that, having been diagnosed with ALS during an early stage of his graduate work, he did not see much point in obtaining a doctorate if he were to die soon after. Hawking later said that the real turning point was his 1965 marriage to Jane Wilde, a language student. Jane cared for him until 1990 when the couple separated. They had three children: Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. Hawking married his personal care assistant, Elaine Mason, in 1995;the couple divorced In October 2006 amid claims by former nurses that she had abused him. In 1999, Jane Hawking published a memoir, Music to Move the Stars, detailing the marriage and its breakdown; in 2010 she published a revised version, Travelling to Infinity, My Life with Stephen.
Hawking supports the children's charity SOS Children's Villages UK and has stated that his view on how to live life is to "seek the greatest value of our action". He strongly opposed the Iraq War, calling it "a war crime" and "based on two lies" at a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, where he participated in a public reading of the names of Iraqi war victims.
Hawking has named his secondary school mathematics teacher Dikran Tahta as an inspiration. He maintains his connection with St Albans School, giving his name to one of the four houses and to an extracurricular science lecture series.
Hawking has a motor neurone disease that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years. He is now almost completely paralysed and communicates through a speech generating device. Hawking's illness has progressed more slowly than typical cases of ALS: survival for more than 10 years after diagnosis is uncommon.
Symptoms of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at University of Cambridge; he lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head. The diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21, shortly before his first marriage, and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years. By 1974, he was unable to feed himself or get out of bed. His speech became slurred so that he could be understood only by people who knew him well. During a visit to CERN in Geneva in 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia, which in his condition was life-threatening as it further restricted his already limited respiratory capacity. He had an emergency tracheotomy, and as a result lost what remained of his ability to speak.A speech generating device was built in Cambridge, using software from an American company, that enabled Hawking to write onto a computer with small movements of his body, and then have a voice synthesiser speak what he typed.
The particular voice synthesiser hardware he uses, which has an American English accent, is no longer being produced. Asked why he has still kept the same voice after so many years, Hawking stated that he has not heard a voice he likes better and that he identifies with it even though the synthesiser is both large and fragile by current standards. Although a mid-2009 corporate press release said that he had chosen NeoSpeech's VoiceText speech synthesiser as his new voice, a 30 December 2011 interview with Hawking's technician indicates that Hawking is still using an older synthesiser containing a card "which dates back to the 1980s" and that any upgrade would have to be the same voice, otherwise "it wouldn't be Stephen's voice any more".
For lectures and media appearances, Hawking appears to speak fluently through his synthesiser; however when preparing answers his system produces words at a rate of about one per minute. Hawking's setup uses a predictive text entry system, which requires only the first few characters in order to auto-complete the word, but as he is only able to use his cheek for data entry, constructing complete sentences takes time. During a TED Conference talk, it took him seven minutes to provide a brief answer to a question.
He describes himself as lucky, despite his disease. Its slow progression has allowed him time to make influential discoveries and has not hindered him from having, in his own words, "a very attractive family".When his wife, Jane, was asked why she decided to marry a man with a three-year life expectancy, she responded, "Those were the days of atomic gloom and doom, so we all had a rather short life expectancy".
Hawking's first popular science book, A Brief History of Time, was published on 1 April 1988. It stayed on the British Sunday Times best-sellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.A Brief History of Time was followed by The Universe in a Nutshell (2001). A collection of essays titled Black Holes and Baby Universes (1993) was also popular. His book, A Briefer History of Time (2005), co-written by Leonard Mlodinow, updated his earlier works to make them accessible to a wider audience. In 2007 Hawking and his daughter, Lucy Hawking, published George's Secret Key to the Universe, a children's book focusing on science that Lucy Hawking described as "a bit like Harry Potter but without the magic."