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The Great Mind Of Stephen Hawking | A Life In Science

Updated on February 17, 2016

Dr. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Stephen Hawking
Dr. Stephen Hawking

The Life of Stephen Hawking

Dr. Stephen Hawking was born on January 1942 in Oxford. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and the prognosis of death within two years. His parents' house was in north London, but during the second WW, Oxford was considered a safer place to have kids. When he was eight, his family moved to St. Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to St. Albans School and then on to University of Oxford; his father's old college. Stephen wanted to study Mathematics, although his father would have preferred medicine.

In 1959, he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford, his father's old college, where he studied physics under Robert Berman, where he pursued his particular interests in thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. Despite his sometimes lax study habits and his boredom with university life, he graduated in 1962 with a First Class BA degree. After graduating from Oxford, he spent a short time studying sunspots at Oxford University’s observatory. However, he soon realized that he was more interested in theory than in observation, and left Oxford for Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he studied for a time under Fred Hoyle, the most distinguished English astronomer of the time.

In his early days at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease in which the nerves controlling the muscles become inactive while the sensory nerves function normally. Due to this sustained condition, it normally takes him about 40 hours to devise a 45 minute lecture. He was not expected to live more than two years. Completing his doctorate did not appear likely. Yet, Hawking defied the odds, not only attaining his Ph.D. but also creating new roads into the understanding of the universe in the decades since.

Dr. Hawking

Life of Dr. Hawking Continued...

In 1974, he was inducted into the Royal Society, a worldwide fellowship of scientists. In 1979, he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the most famous academic chair in the world (the second holder was Sir Isaac Newton, also a member of the Royal Society). Over the course of his career, Dr. Hawking studied the basic laws governing the universe. He proposed that, since the universe boasts a beginning the Big Bang it likely will have an ending.

Working with fellow cosmologist Roger Penrose, he demonstrated that Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity suggests that space and time began at the birth of the universe and ends within black holes, which implies that Einstein's theory and quantum theory must be united. Hawking's work in modern cosmology and in theoretical astronomy and physics is widely recognized.

Dr. Hawking and Jane
Dr. Hawking and Jane

Stephen and Jane

It was his marriage with Jane that changed his life and encouraged him to study and finish. She grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire and later studied languages. She married Stephen Hawking in 1965, whom she had met through mutual college friends at a party in their mutual hometown of St Albans. The couple had three children after Stephen was diagnosed with ALS: The first, Robert was born in 1967, Lucy 1970, and Timothy in 1979. After years of working on her doctoral thesis through Westfield College, she was able to attain her PhD in Medieval Spanish poetry in April 1981. Hawking rarely discussed his illness and physical challenges, even in a precedent set during their courtship with Jane.

About ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Charcot's disease, and motor neuron disease (MND), attacks certain cells in the brain and spinal cord needed to keep our muscles moving. Motor neurons are nerve cells located in the brain, brain stem, and spinal cord that serve as controlling units and vital communication links between the nervous system and the voluntary muscles of the body. Early signs and symptoms of ALS include:

  • Muscle cramps and muscle twitching
  • Weakness in hands,legs and feet
  • Difficulty speaking

In some cases, they might order additional tests if the diagnosis is not clear. These include:

  • Electromyography and nerve conduction
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Genetic tests

Although the sequence of upcoming symptoms and the rate of disease progression vary from person to person depending on their body, eventually individuals will not be able to stand or walk, get in or out of bed on their own, or use their hands and arms. Difficulty chewing impairs the person’s ability to eat normally and increase the risk of choking. Maintaining weight will then become a problem. Because cognitive abilities are relatively intact, people are aware of their progressive loss of function and may become anxious and depressed.

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A Brief History Of Time...

Prof. Hawking's first book called ' A Brief History of Time' was the world's best selling book and still to this day stands as the greatest science books. In his book, Hawking talks about many theories in physics. Some of the things that he talks about are the history of physics, gravity, how light moves in the universe, space-time, elementary particles (very small objects that make up things in the universe), black holes, the Big Bang (the theory that the universe started from one point), and time travel, the idea that travel can be done to the past and to the future. In the first part of the book Hawking talks about the history of Physics and the second part of the book he describes the motion of planets moving around the sun and how gravity works between the planets and the sun. He also talks about the ideas of absolute rest and absolute position. In the third part of the book Hawking goes to explain that the universe is getting bigger over time. One of the things he uses to explain his idea is the Doppler shift ( which is the change of frequency of a wave.) In the fourth and fifth part of the book it describes the forces of nature and the uncertainty principle says that the speed and the position of a particle cannot be found at the same time. The sixth and seventh parts covers and entire chapter dedicated to Black Holes, what they are, what they do and the relation between the amount of entropy in a black hole and the size of the black hole's event horizon. This was strange to certain people who had studied physics, because it was already said that nothing can escape from a black hole's event horizon. The last chapter is more on how the universe started and how it might end.

Dr. Hawking's book has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and this book continues to be a wonderful and brilliant piece of work and millions of people around the world read it.

Prof. Stephen Hawking

Prof. Stephen Hawking
Prof. Stephen Hawking
Prof. Stephen Hawking
Prof. Stephen Hawking

Profesor Hawking

Hawking has lived with a disease that doctor’s initially thought would take his life within just two. And yet, he not only managed to make his greatest scientific contributions while dealing with ever-increasing problems of mobility and speech, he also became a jet-setting personality who travels all around the world to address audiences and inspire people. He truly is a huge inspiration to us all.

Thank you, M

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The Great Mind Of Stephen Hawking | A Life In Science

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of The Great Mind Of Stephen Hawking | A Life In Science

© 2016 Mahsa S


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    • mahsa setareh profile imageAUTHOR

      Mahsa S 

      2 years ago

      Dr. Hawkings is indeed inspirational. He has been on a w/c for years now and still continues to amaze us all with his work and the fact that he is a wonderful author :D

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      He's such a huge inspiration to all of us and he's the best scientist ever!

      thank you so much for writing this article, i really appreciate his work and the fact that he's such a driven person .

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      It's not often that you see someone push past a deadly disease and become one of the best of all time in his field. Hawking is definitely a good inspiration.

    • mahsa setareh profile imageAUTHOR

      Mahsa S 

      2 years ago

      Thank you Danielle, Dr.Stephen Hawking is such a huge inspiration to us all. He's my favorite physicist, and his book ' A Brief History of Time' is fantastic, although I don't understand most of it but nevertheless it's great. If you haven't read it, you should :)

    • profile image

      Danielle K 

      2 years ago

      This is a wonderful article thank you, it's so detailed and well written. I loved reading about his life and how this disease came to impact him and his life with Jane.

      I really love the movie too, the acting was fantastic.


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