“ Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind, I am free. ”
Can you imagine a man, called as the ‘mastermind of the universe’, who couldn’t even utter a single word or was unable to even lift his own finger, went on to change the perception of the entire universe? Have you ever thought of questioning the dealings of the entire universe? The late Oxford Physicist did the same, he questioned the working of the universe and that left us all flabbergasted and perhaps made us more evolved. Skinny in appearance with glasses that covered his face, young professor Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, “ALS”, a motor neurone disease that paralysed him at the age of 21. Professor Hawking challenged his own life and lived an extraordinary life that brought an evolution in the field of cosmology and physics. The esteemed cosmologist took his last breath on 14th March 2018, but his findings and ideas will remain eternal. It will hardly make any sense to say ‘rest in peace’ to a man who did not believe in an afterlife, but we can definitely celebrate his vast life by acknowledging his consequential contribution and his exceptional achievements.
Glance at his extraordinary life
- 8 January 1942– Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England to Frank and Isobel Hawking on the 300th death anniversary of Galileo.
- He began his schooling at the Byron House School in Highgate, London.
- The young Hawking shifted from one school to another, starting from St.Albans High School for Girls to Radlett School in Hertfordshire and finally to St. Albans School.
- At the young age of 16, Hawking started showing signs of a genius when, with the help of Dikran Tahta, his mathematics teacher, he built a computer ussing clock parts, an old telephone switchboard and some other recycled components.
- 1959– At the age of 17, Hawking began his university education at University College, Oxford.
- Initially young Hawking was bored of the easy academic work and hence became extremely inactive in college. But after a year or two, the eccentric genius decided to take an active step towards his college life. He started engaging himself in college activities and with people around him, which made him popular in the campus. To step it up, the scrawny teenager even decided to join the ‘Boat club’ where he would coax the crew. This gave him the title of ‘daredevil’, as he was known for taking up challenges and steering his crew on risky courses that also resulted in damaging the boats.
- Lack of hard work and irregular study habits started getting highlighted when Hawking got a borderline first class percentage. But in order to pursue his graduation in cosmology, a first class honours degree was essential. To boost his poor results, he appeared for viva examinations where he had to describe his future plans.The witty genius said, “If you award me a First, I will go to Cambridge. If I receive a Second, I shall stay in Oxford, so I expect you will give me a First.” Undoubtedly he received a first-class BA (Hons.) Degree in Natural Science.
- In October 1962– He began his graduation work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
- 1970– He postulated that the event horizon of a black hole can never get smaller. In the same year, he proposed the four laws of black hole mechanics, drawing an analogy of thermodynamics with James M. Bardeen and Brandon Carter.
- 1969– Hawking was offered a ‘Fellowship for Distinction’ in Science to remain at Caius which he accepted. 1970- The duo published a proof which stated that if the universe obeys the general theory of relativity and fits any of the models of physical cosmology which was developed by Alexander Friedmann, then it must have begun as a singularity.
- 1968– Hawking collaborated with Penrose and further extended the singularity theorem concepts which were explored in his first thesis. The joint essay was the runner-up in the 1968 Gravity Research Foundation competition.
- March 1966– Obtained his Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, specializing in General Relativity and Cosmology. His essay on ‘Singularities and the Geometry of Space-Time’ shared top honours with one by Penrose to win that year’s prestigious ‘Adams Prize’.
- 1966– Hawking’s thesis was approved and he later received a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College.
- 1956– Hawking wrote a thesis, in which he applied Roger Penrose’s theorem of spacetime singularity in the center of the black holes to the entire universe.
- 14 July 1965– Hawking married June Wilde, someone he met when he was a graduation student.
- Despite the difficulties faced by Hawking while he was pursuing his doctoral studies, he did not fail to explore his field of interest. He also openly challenged the work of Fred Hoyle and his student Jayant Narlikar at a lecture in June 1964 which resulted in attaining popularity for his brilliance and his perception.
- 1963– At the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease, called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as “ALS.” While the young doctoral student was disappointed and depressed, he was advised and encouraged by his doctors to continue his education.
- 1973– Hawking wrote his first book, ‘The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time’ with George Ellis.
- Beginning in 1973, Hawking changed his subject of study into quantum gravity and quantum mechanics.
- 1974– Hawkings presented a theory what is now known as ‘Hawking Radiation’ in which he showed that black holes emit radiation which will continue until they exhaust their energy and evaporate. After his further research and publication, his discovery was highly appreciated and was regarded as a significant breakthrough in theoretical physics.
- 1974– Hawking was elected a ‘Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)’, a few weeks after the announcement of Hawking Radiation. During that time, he was one of the youngest scientists to become a ‘Fellow’.
- 1975– Hawking returned to Cambridge as a reader in gravitational physics.
- 1977– Was appointed as a professor who taught in a chair in gravitational physics. The following year he received the ‘Albert Einstein Medal’ and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.
- 1970– Hawking was elected as ‘Lucasian Professor of Mathematics’ at the ‘University of Cambridge’. His inaugural lecture as aaa Lucasian Professor of Mathematics was titled as “Is the end in sight for Theoretical Physics?” During the same period his approach towards physics was not entirely dependant on mathematical proof, but rather based on speculation and his intuition.
- 1981– Proposed the very famous paradox that information in a black hole is irretrievably lost when a black hole evaporates.
- 1981– Presented the idea that there might be no boundary – or beginning or ending – to the universe.
- 1982– In summer, he started a new line of quantum theory research on the origin of the universe.
- In 1983– Hawking and Jim Hartle published a model, known as the ‘Hartle–Hawking’ state which proposed that the universe had no boundary in space-time; i.e. before the Big Bang, time did not exist and the concept of the beginning of the universe is meaningless.
- 1985– Published a paper which theorised that if the no-boundary proposition were correct, then when the universe would stop expanding and will eventually collapse and time would run backwards.
- April 1988– The book ‘A Brief History of Time’ was published in the US and in June in the UK, and it proved to be extraordinaryly successful.
- 1993– Co-edited a book on Euclidean quantum gravity with Gary Gibbons and published a collected edition of his own articles on black holes and the Big Bang.
- 1993– Published collection of essays, interviews, and talks titled ‘Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays’.
- 1994– Hawking along with Penrose delivered a series of six lectures which was later known as ‘The Nature of Space and Time’.
- 1995– Divorced his first wife Jane Wilde and married Mason in September.
- 2001– Hawking continued to provide a generalised version of his research for the masses and published ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’.
- 2005– Wrote ‘A Briefer History of Time’, with Leonard Mlodinow to update his earlier works with the aim of making them accessible to a wider audience, and God created the Integers, which appeared in 2006.
- 2006– Hawking developed a theory of ‘top-down cosmology’ along with Thomas Hertog and Jim Hartle.
- 2006– Hawking and Mason divorced after few years of courtship.
- 2006– Hawking posed an open question on the internet, “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?”
- 2007– Participated in a ‘zero-gravity flight’ in a reduced-gravity aircraft, during which he experienced weightlessness eight times.
- Hawking died at his home in Cambridge, England, on 14 March 2018 leaving a dark hole in the field of Physics.
Professor Hawking and PopCulture
Stephen Hawking was also fond of pop culture and also appeared in some of the leading TV shows including-
His Notable contribution to the Scientific literature