Authors: Stephen Hawking

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English physicist

Author Works

Nonfiction:

The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, 1973 (with G. F. R. Ellis)

Theoretical Advances in General Relativity: Some Strangeness in the Proportion, 1980

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, 1988

Black Holes and Baby Universes, 1993

Hawking on the Big Bang and Black Holes, 1993

The Nature of Space and Time, 1996 (with Roger Penrose)

The Universe in a Nutshell, 2001

The Future of Spacetime, 2002 (with others)

The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe, 2002

Edited Texts:

General Relativity, 1980 (Werner Israel)

Superspace and Supergravity: Proceedings of the Nuffield Workshop, 1981 (with M. Rocek)

Three Hundred Years of Gravitation, 1987 (with Israel)

On the Shoulders of Giants, 2002

Biography

Stephen William Hawking is that rare combination of scientist and celebrity whose writings take the obscure and arcane workings of the universe and make them available to general readers. Born exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo, Hawking would eventually hold the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics at Cambridge, the same post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.{$I[A]Hawking, Stephen}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Hawking, Stephen}{$I[tim]1942;Hawking, Stephen}

Stephen Hawking

(©Miriam Berkley)

Hawking was raised in an educated household. His father, Frank Hawking, researched tropical diseases and, eventually, became the head of parasitology at the British National Institute of Medical Research. Frank married Isobel, a secretary at the institute. In 1941, at the height of World War II, the Hawkings discovered Isobel was pregnant, and they decided to move to Oxford, a city which was safe from the threat of Axis bombing because of a reciprocal agreement between Germany and England intended to spare the university towns of Oxford, Cambridge, Göttingen, and Heidelberg.

In 1950 the Hawkings moved to St. Albans when Frank moved to the Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill. It was there that Stephen began his schooling at the St. Albans High School for Girls. At eleven he was transferred to St. Albans School for Boys. Hawking’s father wanted Stephen to follow in his footsteps and study medicine. Stephen wanted to study mathematics. However, as he was following his father’s footsteps by studying at Oxford University, he settled for studying chemistry as his primary subject, along with physics, and mathematics as secondary because, at that time, there was no mathematics fellow at Oxford.

In 1959, Hawking won a scholarship to Oxford, where his intuitive understanding of physics allowed him to complete his degree, with honors, by 1962. Hawking moved on to Cambridge to pursue a Ph.D. in cosmology, the branch of physics that examines the structure, origin, and space-time relationships of the universe. Hawking focused on black holes and quickly became known for his groundbreaking ideas.

It was in the transition between undergraduate and graduate school that Hawking began to notice such neurological problems as stumbling and slurred speech. Concerned, his parents took him for testing and, in early 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, an incurable muscle wasting disease. His doctors predicted that Hawking would not live long enough to complete his doctoral work.

Hawking, however, had other plans. He had met the woman he wanted to marry, Jane Wilde, and knew that he would have to complete his degree and get a job to be able to marry his intended. In 1966 Hawking completed his Ph.D. and was named Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge. He quickly became a professorial fellow and, by 1973, had joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. In 1977 Cambridge named him professor of gravitational physics. Two years later, he was named Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

While fulfilling his professorial duties, Hawking continued to study black holes, using quantum mechanics and general relativity. In 1970 he discovered that the general belief that black holes are inescapable was incorrect. He found that under the proper circumstances, black holes actually emit what is now known as Hawking radiation. Hawking’s work continued to provide enormous contributions to the ultimate goal of himself and most cosmologists: a unified field theory, one equation that would explain the origin, structure, and behavior of all physical matter in the universe.

By 1984, Hawking had completed a draft of his first popular book, A Brief History of Time. However, while at a physics lab in Sweden, Hawking contracted pneumonia. A tracheotomy saved his life but left him with no voice. A computer system was established to give him a synthesized one.

In 1988 A Brief History of Time was published. The book was on The Sunday Times (London) best-seller list for 237 weeks and turned Hawking into a pop-culture icon–capped, perhaps, by a cameo as himself on an episode of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Hawking found a way to bridge the gap between popular and academic writing, bringing galactic concepts to the pedestrian reader without compromising the science behind the idea. A prodigious writer and lecturer, Hawking created a market for other works by physicists and cosmologists and has allowed many readers the chance to touch the stars.

BibliographyBoslough, John. Stephen Hawking’s Universe: An Introduction to the Most Remarkable Scientist of Our Time. New York: Avon, 1996. One of the best of the many works attempting to make Hawking’s work accessible to the general public. Boslough explains Hawking’s concepts without reducing them to absurdity.Coles, Peter. Hawking and the Mind of God. Cambridge, England: Icon Books, 2000. Coles undertakes two tasks in this work. His first is to discover how Hawking became a celebrity scientist. The second is to analyze what Coles terms the pseudo-religious themes of Hawking’s work.Ferguson, Kitty. Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of Everything. New York: Bantam, 1992. Considered by many the authoritative biographical work on Hawking.Hawking, Jane. Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen Hawking. Philadelphia: Trans-Atlantic, 2000. Written by Hawking’s first wife, this book tells the tale of their twenty-five-year marriage and a wife’s struggle to raise three children and care for a husband with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A unique insight into living with genius.Strathern, Paul. Hawking and Black Holes. New York: Doubleday, 1998. While focusing on the primary ideas of Hawking’s works, Strathern shows Hawking’s drive and his insight into the workings of the universe.White, Michael, and John Gribbin. Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2002. This biography offers a superb blend of information on Hawking’s life and his theories. Particular attention is paid to Hawking’s battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
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