Stephen Hawking 1942 - 2018

Nationality:
British
born in:
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom

Stephen William Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 in Oxford, and also completed his undergraduate studies in physics there. He then moved to Cambridge, where he remained throughout his life except for yearly stays at California, and frequent travels.

In 1963 Hawking was diagnosed with a form of Motor Neurone Disease. In spite of being in a wheelchair and later dependent on a computerised voice system for communication, he combined his life in Cambridge with extensive travel and public appearances.

In 1988 Hawking published 'A Brief History of Time'. The book was expected to help pay for growing care needs, but instead made him a world-known celebrity. The subsequent three decades of his life balanced scientific work with widely-acclaimed public appearances. He was both a science communicator and a public figure.

In 1999, Stephen Hawking's university department moved into brand-new facilities at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, where he obtained a large corner office on the top floor. This office was a hive of activity, a place for debate and discussion, and the centre of Hawking's global network.

In 2021, the contents of Stephen Hawking's office and associated property were given to the Science Museum. This includes his personal reference library, his personalized wheelchairs and historical communication equipment, pictures, photographs, framed posters and memorabillia, medals, awards, presentation trophies and prizes; and office fittings, decorative objects and furniture.

SCIENTIFIC TRAJECTORY

Hawking obtained his Ph.D. with a thesis titled 'Properties of Expanding Universes', and became a research fellow (1965) then Fellow for Distinction in Science (1969) at Gonville & Caius college at Cambridge. In 1968 he moved to the Institute of Astronomy, later moving back to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMPT). There Hawking published his first academic book with George Ellis, 'The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time'. Hawking was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1973, and first went to Caltech as a Distinguished Scholar in 1974. He was appointed reader at Cambridge in 1975, and in 1979 became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the chair once held by Isaac Newton.

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 showed that it was important to unify general relativity with quantum theoryleading to discover what is now called Hawking Radiation, the consequence of which being that black holes should eventually evaporate and disappear. Up to the end of his life, Hawking was working on possible resolutions to the information paradox that resulted from the application of Hawking radiation to the long-term evolution of the universe. This also led to an interest in wormholes as plausible physical entitities connecting different universes, helping spark a wide interest in them far beyond astrophysical circles.

Hawking was among innovative researchers of his generation making scientific use of what is called the Anthropic Principle: the fact that we humans exist puts narrow constraints on the conditions of the universe and its evolution. Hawking was atheist, but had considerable allies among believers, including many colleagues and the Catholic Church.

Throughout the 1980s Hawking was one of the proponents of the 'no-boundary' proposal of the universe along with James Hartle. He boldly proclaimed in a conference at the Vatican in 1981 that "There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the universe, and what can be more special than the condition that there is no boundary?” His idea received wide interest by theoreticians through the 1980s and 90s.