Hawking, Stephen William 1942 - 2018

(1942-2018), mathematician, cosmologist and author

Professor Stephen William Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. Stephen went on to University College, Oxford. Stephen wanted to study mathematics although his father would have preferred medicine. Mathematics was not available at University College, so he pursued physics instead and achieved a first-class honours degree in natural science.

After gaining his PhD with his thesis titled 'Properties of Expanding Universes', he became a research fellow (1965) then Fellow for Distinction in Science (1969) at Gonville & Caius college at Cambridge University. In 1966 he won the Adams Prize for his essay 'Singularities and the Geometry of Space-time'. In 1968 Stephen moved to the Institute of Astronomy, later moving back to DAMTP, employed as a research assistant where he published his first academic book, The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time, with George Ellis. During the next few years, Stephen was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at the California Institute of Technology.

Professor Stephen Hawking worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's general theory of relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated that, it was important to unify general relativity with quantum theory, a great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century. The consequence of this was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit 'Hawking' radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Towards the end of his life, Stephen was working on a possible resolution to the black hole information paradox.

Professor Stephen Hawking received thirteen honorary degrees. He was awarded CBE, Companion of Honour and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also won of many awards, most notably were the Fundamental Physics prize, Copley Medal and the Wolf Foundation prize.

In 1963 Stephen was diagnosed with ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease. In spite of being in a wheelchair and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication, Stephen continued to combine his personal life with his research in addition to an extensive travel and lectures.