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theoretical physics, biography, Stephen Hawking, motor neurone disease
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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), a type of motor neurone disease. 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.
To quote Stephen William Hawking :-
Iím sure my disability has a bearing on why Iím 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.
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