Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England. His father, Frank, was a specialist in tropical medicine, his profession often kept him away from home and family. Hawkings mother, Isabelle, was a very politically active person, which kept her away from home too. Even though his parents were gone a lot, they had a big influence on his life. Hawking always wanted to study mathematics and physics, but his Dad said that mathematics did not have many job opportunities. He ended up majoring in physics and chemistry. Another reason he did not take mathematics was because it was not available at Oxford University, his local college.
When he was growing up, he was a self-learner. His friends did not know how smart he was until his second year of college. He and his friends were assigned thirteen honors questions in the area of electricity and magnetism. It took his friends, Derek, Gordan, and Richard, a week to complete two and a half of the problems. Hawking did the first ten in three hours, he did not complete the others because he said he did not have enough time. Once, in college, he fell down a flight of stairs. After he fell down, he could not remember anything, gradually he began remembering, until he remembered it all, which took all of two hours.
Stephen Hawking graduated from Oxford University at the age of twenty in 1962. He then took a trip to Prussia with a friend. During the visit, he became ill. Upon returning to England, he had a series of tests to identify his health problem. He moved to Cambridge to attend graduate school, which is where he learned that he had Lou Gehrigs disease. This disease destroys the voluntary muscles, making normal tasks become impossible, such as walking and eating. Doctors predicted that he had to and a half years to live. He became depressed at stopped working and going to school.
During this time, he met his future wife, Jane Wilde. They had three children: Robert (1967), Lucy (1970), and Timothy (1979). Meeting Jane, lifted Hawkings spirits so much that he disregarded his illness, returned to work and school. He did research at Caisus College and studied theoretical physics. He did this partly because he found elementary particles unattractive and he wanted to study with Fred Hoyle, who was a British astronomer and also a science fiction novelist. Hawkings research was centered on Black Holes. Since the 1960s, he has lead the field of scientist in Black Hole research.
One discovery of his was that Black Holes emit radiation. This radiation is called Hawking Radiation. In 1974, Hawking was inducted into the Royal Society. The Royal Societys traditional induction ceremony includes the new members walking on stage and signing a ledger book. The book itself goes back to the earliest days of society, it even has the signature of Sir Isaac Newton. The entry of Hawking into the Royal Society is an achievement that will never be forgot by a person who wasnt expected to live after the age of twenty five years old.
Hawking still things this moment was his proudest in his career. Hawking found he could not feed himself and get in and out of bed that same year. Jane was finding it too hard to take care of him and three children. Hawkings hired students to live with them and help his wife. In 1975, he received the Pius XII medal from Pope Paul VI as a Young Scientist for distinguished work. There has been a long standing conflict between the Catholic church and physics, going back to Galileo. When Hawking visited the Vatican, he saw Galileos theory that the earth went around the sun.
Hawking has a great fondness for Galileo as he was born three hundred years to the day after Galileos death. In 1975, Hawking was elected Lucasion Professor of Mathematics (once held by Isaac Newton). There is a big book that everyone who holds this title has to sign. After one year of being Lucasian professor of Mathematics, he had still never signed the book. So he did and that was the last time he ever signed his name because his illness had immobilized him. In 1981, Hawking was in the Vatican, attending a conference in physics when he was granted an audience with the Pope.
He was told that it was permissible to study evolution of the universe after the Big Bang but not to study the Big Bang itself as it was the work of God. Hawkings talk on the possibility that space-time was finite without boundary (no beginning, no end, no creation), had somehow been missed by the Pope. In 1982, he was faced with the fees of his daughters schooling so he decided to write his now famous book, A Brief History in Time. While in Switzerland, after he finished a first draft of the book, he developed pneumonia and had to undergo a lifesaving surgery which cost him his voice.
He soon after started using the Perspex device, which is basically a sheet of plexi-glass with letters on it such that when he looks at a letter you can see which one he is looking at. Conversing letter by letter takes too much time so he moved on to a computer program that allowed him to pick words from a series of menus. This is accompanied by a voice synthesizer, attached to his chair. He can speak up to fifteen words a minute and can save them on a disk if he wants. The only bug in the program, he feels, is that it gives him an American accent.
His youngest son was asked what he thought of his fathers computer voice and he replied that it was the only voice he had ever known his father to have. He did not think of it as a computer voice but rather the voice of his father. In 1986, Hawking met with the Pope again. He was admitted to the Pontifical Academy of Science. A Brief History In Time was meant to explain the basic ideas of laws that govern the universe. Hawkings said that Equations are necessary if you are doing accounting but they are the boring part of mathematics.
Most of the interesting ideas can be conveyed by words or pictures! Hawking is the only the most recent in a long list of scientists who have wrestled with the question of God and have entered discussions with others of their theories and findings. The history goes back to Galileo and the Catholic church. It appears that the battle will continue for quite some time. He may have different opinions when it comes to God but he has a much better working relationship with the church than Galileo did. The book was published on April Fools Day in 1988, six years after he started writing it.
Since then it has been translated into thirty languages and has sold about 5. 5 million copies. A film has also been made as well as another book, A Brief History of Time: A Readers Companion. The latest edition, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, has been translated into forty different languages and sold more than 9 million copies. This book was on the London Sunday Times Best Seller list for a record two hundred and thirty seven weeks. Longer than other book. Of course, Hawking points out that this does not include Shakespeare or The Bible.
This book was on the cutting edge of what was known about the nature of the universe. But since that time, there have been many advances in technology, observing both the micro- and macrocosmic worlds. These observations have confirmed many of Hawkings theoretical positions in the first edition of his book. This includes the recent discoveries of cosmic background, explore satellite, (COBE), which probed back in time to within 300,000 years of the universes beginnings and showed wrinkles in the fabric of space/time, which he had projected.
The book is written for everybody. Hawkings states that even if you do not understand the text the pictures will teach you about his theories and you will increase your awareness of the origins of the universe. In my opinion, Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man with interesting theories. He is so smart that when Data, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, wanted to play cards with the most brilliant scientist of the 20th century, he was one of the players along with Newton and Einstein. He played himself, however.