A leading figure in the world of science, Professor Stephen Hawking epitomised the idea that anything is possible.
Renowned for his ground-breaking research of the phenomena that is black holes and relativity, Hawking was also a successful author of numerous pieces of literature, such as ‘A Brief History of Time’.
Regarded as a down to earth character, Hawking was no stranger to cameo features in TV and Film. Notably, Hawking made appearances in The Simpsons, and the American TV show, The Big Bang Theory.
As the world mourns a fallen star, it is only fitting that we delve back in time to discover and appreciate the inspiration that is Stephen Hawking.
Hawking’s Background and Education
Born on 8 January 1942, Stephen Hawking grew up in St. Albans along with his younger siblings. Similar to Stephen’s taste for science, his parents were also science and research advocates.
At the tender age of 17, Stephen attended University College, Oxford, in October 1959. Fascinated with the fundamental mechanics of the world, Hawking’s life as a student seen him become attracted to the complex world of maths and physics.
In 1962, Stephen graduated with a first class honours degree in Physics, where he subsequently went on to study his PhD in Cosmology at Cambridge University.
Hawking’s Diagnosis and Destiny
In 1963, the same year he was due to turn 21, Stephen was delivered a life-threatening diagnosis in the shape of motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Consequently, Hawking was given a life-expectancy of no more than two years leaving the prospect of his completed doctorate becoming unfulfilled.
Astonishingly, Hawking managed to defy all of the odds surrounding his fate and completed his doctorate in 1966.
Prior to Hawking’s diagnosis, he was due to become acquainted with his future wife, Jane Wildes, at a New Year’s party.
In the midst of all his challenges and triumphs, Stephen proposed to Jane in 1965. A native of St Albans herself, Jane was a student studying modern languages. Influenced by the uncertainty surrounding Stephen’s condition, the pair took it upon themselves to elope quickly.
Consequently, this period of time accompanied some restrictions when it came to eloping. In Jane’s case, students were often unable to marry. As a result, Jane pursued her college in an attempt to gain a special exception.
Later in life, Stephen and Jane had three children and although their marriage lasted thirty years (1995), Hawking was once quoted saying:
‘’The engagement saved my life. It gave me something to live for’’
Resilience in Abundance
With his health rapidly declining, Stephen found himself having to rely on walking aids, such as a walking stick. Shortly after, he became confined to the permanent use of a wheelchair.
In 1985, whilst travelling in Geneva, Hawking contracted pneumonia. It became so severe that Hawking was placed on a life support machine. Jane refused the doctors offer to turn off his life support. Instead, Stephen was subjected to a tracheotomy, which is an operation that will eventually allow him to breathe.
This came as a consequence, as this life-changing operation resulted in permanently removing Hawking’s ability to speak. This led to the creation of Hawking’s famous speech synthesizer.
Refusing to let his condition consume him, Hawking avoided the pitfall of letting his disability define him. Instead, his resilience shone through by taking matters into his own hands by coaching his mind to operate in an alternative way.
In light of this, rather than writing down equations to determine an outcome, Hawking advanced his way of visualising the issues within his mind.
Some believe that his advanced method of visualisation forged the way to some of his considerable discoveries.
A Devoted Theoretical Physicist
A decorated career spanning decades, Stephen held many titles and positions. These titles include being a British theoretical physicist, professor, cosmologist, author and Director of Research.
One of Hawking’s notable pieces of scientific work involved his partnership with Roger Penrose. This collaboration focused on the work previously addressed by renowned scientist, Albert Einstein, that focused on gravitational singularity theorems and black holes.
Another noteworthy piece of work is Hawking’s theory of cosmology, where he was actually the first person to deliver such a theory.
Impressive List of Accolades
Hawking’s published several books that frequently received ‘best seller’ status.
These include The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, 300 Years of Gravitation, with W Israel, A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, and The Universe in a Nutshell.
In terms of his recognised credentials, Stephen Hawking incredibly holds thirteen honorary degrees. Additionally, his long list of accolades includes being awarded CBE (1982), Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009).
Furthermore, Hawking received numerous medals, prizes, and awards. Some of his most famous recognitions came in the form of receiving the Fundamental Physics prize (2013), Copley Medal (2006) and the Wolf Foundation prize (1988).
Infamous Quotes by Hawking
To end this post, it would be a favourable move to leave you with some of Stephen Hawking’s memorable and animated quotes.
Whilst he may be regarded as one of the science’s prolific masterminds, he was also a genius at offering meaningful life quotes:
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge
I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road
My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all
Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny
My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus
I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers
People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining
We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet