Hawking is considered one of the world's leading theoretical physicists.
Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of mathematics at the University
of Cambridge (a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton), and a fellow
of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Despite being severely
disabled by motor neurone disease, he has had a successful career
and has achieved status as a worldwide celebrity.
Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942.
His parents were Frank and Isobel Hawking. He had two younger
sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adoptive brother, Edward. Frank
was a researcher in tropical medicine. Of his family, Stephen
was closest to his mother, who was active in left-wing politics.
Isobel relates that around the time of Stephen's birth she bought
an astronomical atlas from Blackwell's in Oxford, which her sister-in-law
later remarked to have been a rather prophetic purchase.
showed great talent in mathematics and physics at an early age.
When he was eleven, he went to St Albans School, in Hertfordshire,
near London. He then progressed on to University College, Oxford,
where he wanted to study mathematics. When mathematics wasn't
available for him to study, he studied physics instead. Initially,
his father wanted him to study medicine.
was elected as one of the youngest fellows of the Royal Society
in 1974, was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
in 1982, and became a Companion of Honour in 1989. He is a respected
physicist, with many works recognised by both the International
Association of Natural Physics and the American Physics-Astronomy
Guild of Amherst. Stephen also enjoys inspiring young people into
science, and emphasizing that just because a person is physically
disabled, he is not necessarily mentally disabled.
Hawking's principal fields of research are physical cosmology,
quantum gravity, and string theory. In 1971, in collaboration
with Sir Roger Penrose, he provided mathematical support for the
Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe; if the general
theory of relativity was correct, the universe must have a singularity,
or starting point, in space-time. Hawking also suggested that,
after the Big Bang, primordial or mini black holes were formed.
showed that, neglecting quantum mechanical effects, the surface
area of a black hole can increase but never decrease, derived
a limit to the radiation emitted when black holes collide, and
that a single black hole cannot break apart into two separate
black holes. In 1974, he calculated that black holes thermally
create and emit subatomic particles until they exhaust their energy
and explode. Known as Hawking radiation, this theory was first
to describe a mathematical link among gravity, quantum mechanics,
and thermodynamics. In 1981, Hawking proposed that, although the
universe had no boundary, it was finite in space-time; 1983 saw
his mathematical proof of this.
Despite being severely disabled by motor neurone disease, Hawking
is highly active in physics, writing, and public life. The disease
makes it necessary for Hawking to carry out in his head the long
and complex calculations that his work requires.
he was young, he was athletic and enjoyed riding horses and playing
with the other children. At Oxford, he coxed a rowing team, which
he stated helped relieve his immense boredom at the school. Symptoms
of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at Cambridge.
Diagnosis came when Hawking was 21, shortly before his first marriage,
and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years.
He battled the odds and has survived much longer than any other
known sufferer of ALS, although he has become increasingly disabled
by the gradual progress of the disease.
has used an electronic voice synthesiser to communicate since
a tracheostomy in 1985 that followed severe pneumonia. He gradually
lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and is now almost completely
paralysed. The computer system attached to his wheelchair is operated
by Hawking via an infra-red 'blink switch' clipped onto his glasses.
By scrunching his right cheek up, he is able to talk, compose
speeches, research papers, browse the World Wide Web and write
e-mail. The system also uses radio transmission to provide control
over doors in his home and office.
he was first living with just his wife, and was confined to a
wheelchair and unable to dress himself, they had physics students
in to help him, in exchange for extra attention and help with
their work. As he grew more disabled Hawking needed a team of
nurses to provide round-the-clock care. He also needed a wheelchair
that would help him not be distracted by his disability.
is every chance that he would never have made the discoveries
he has were it not for the support of his family. Despite his
disease, he describes himself as "lucky" — not
just because its slow progress allowed him time to make influential
discoveries but because it afforded him time to have, in his own
words, "a very attractive family". When Jane was asked
why she decided to marry a man with a 3-year life expectancy,
she responded: "These were the days of atomic gloom and doom,
so we all had rather a short life expectancy."
Hawking cared for Stephen until 1991, when the couple separated
under the pressure of fame, Stephen's increasing disability, and
the consequent need to employ round-the-clock nurses, of whom
one became involved with Stephen. Stephen Hawking and his nurse,
Elaine Mason, were married in 1995. A 2004 Vanity Fair article
by Judy Bachrach contains allegations of violence between the
couple that were made by Stephen's first family, though a police
investigation in the same year ended inconclusively. In 1999 Jane
Hawking published a memoir, Music to Move the Stars, detailing
her own long-term relationship with a family friend whom she later
married. Their daughter Lucy Hawking became a novelist.
Hawking took up Einstein's mantle and solved many of the paradoxes
of relativity by theorising the existence of objects with very
high mass and zero space with gravity so crushing that they absorb
all light and are hence invisible. The theory has since been refined
to fall in line with quantum mechanics and with general developments
addition to academic work, Hawking believed that the average person
should have access to these concepts and wrote a series of popular
science books. His first book, A Brief History of Time, was published
on April 1, 1988 and became a documentary in 1991 starring Hawking,
his family and friends who have known him as well as some leading
physicists. It surprisingly became a best-seller, and was followed
by The Universe in a Nutshell (2001). Both books have remained
highly popular all over the world. A collection of essays, Black
Holes and Baby Universes (1993) was also popular. He has now written
a new book, A Briefer History of Time (2005) that aims to update
his earlier works and make them more accessible to a wider audience.
well as intelligence, the man is known for wit. Hawking is famous
for his oft-made statement, "When I hear of Schrödinger's
cat, I reach for my gun." This was a deliberately ironic
paraphrase of the phrase "Whenever I hear the word culture...
I release the safety-catch of my Browning !", from a play
Schlageter (Act 1, Scene 1) by German playwright and Nazi Poet
Laureate, Hanns Johst. His witty way with words has both entertained
the non-specialist public and helped them to understand complex
questions. Asked recently (October 2005) to explain his assertion
on the British daytime chat show Richard and Judy that the question,
"What came before the big bang?" was meaningless, he
compared it to asking, "What lies north of the north pole?"
well as his serious academic side and humour, Hawking is an active
supporter of various causes. He appeared on a political broadcast
for the United Kingdom's Labour Party, and actively supports the
children's charity SOS Children's Villages.
an old bet
Hawking was in the news in July 2004 for presenting a new theory
about black holes which goes against his own long-held belief
about their behavior, thus losing a bet he made with Kip Thorne
and John Preskill of Caltech. Classically, it can be shown that
information crossing the event horizon of a black hole is lost
to our universe, and that as a consequence all black holes are
identical, beyond their mass, electrical charge and angular velocity
(the "no hair theorem").
problem with this theorem is that it implies the black hole will
emit the same radiation regardless of what goes into the black
hole, and as a consequence that if a pure quantum state is thrown
into a black hole, an "ordinary" mixed state will be
returned. This runs counter to the rules of quantum mechanics
and is known as the black hole information paradox. (For further
detail see Thorne Hawking Preskill bet)
other bet—about the existence of black holes—was described
by Stephen as an "insurance policy" of sorts. To quote
from his book, A Brief History of Time, "This was a form
of insurance policy for me. I have done a lot of work on black
holes, and it would all be wasted if it turned out that black
holes do not exist. But in that case, I would have the consolation
of winning my bet, which would win me four years of the magazine
Private Eye. If black holes do exist, Kip (Kip Thorne) will get
one year of Penthouse. When we made the bet in 1975, we were 80
percent certain that Cygnus was a black hole. By now, I would
say that we are about 95 percent certain, but the bet has yet
to be settled." (1988)
had earlier speculated that the singularity at the centre of a
black hole could form a bridge to a "baby universe"
into which the lost information could pass; such theories have
been very popular in science fiction. But according to Hawking's
new idea, presented at the 17th International Conference on General
Relativity and Gravitation, on 21 July 2004 in Dublin, Ireland,
black holes eventually transmit, in a garbled form, information
about all matter they swallow:
Euclidean path integral over all topologically trivial metrics
can be done by time slicing and so is unitary when analytically
continued to the Lorentzian. On the other hand, the path integral
over all topologically non-trivial metrics is asymptotically independent
of the initial state. Thus the total path integral is unitary
and information is not lost in the formation and evaporation of
black holes. The way the information gets out seems to be that
a true event horizon never forms, just an apparent horizon.
1. The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with George Ellis
2. The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind, (with Abner Shimony,
Nancy Cartwright, and Roger Penrose), Cambridge University Press,
1997, ISBN 0-521-56330-5 (hardback), ISBN 0-521-65538-2 (paperback),
Canto edition: ISBN 0-521-78572-3
1. A Briefer History of Time, (Bantam Books 2005)
2. A Brief History of Time, (Bantam Press 1988)
3. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, (Bantam Books
4. The Universe in a Nutshell, (Bantam Press 2001)
5. On The Shoulders of Giants. The Great Works of Physics and
Astronomy, (Running Press 2002)
6. N.B. On Hawking's website, he denounces the unauthorized publication
of The Theory of Everything and asks consumers to boycott this
complete list of Hawking's publications is available on his website.
1. Alien Planet. This is a special on the Discovery Channel. He
presents some of his theories using his speaking device.
Bob & Tom Show. Hawking is portrayed (and his computerised
voice simulated) in a spoof of the show I'm with Busey. At the
end of the spoof, he's heard cursing his room-mate for being so
3. The Brushback. Hawking was said by this satirical online newspaper
to have been narrowly beaten out by Kordell Stewart for the job
of Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback.
4. The Critic.
5. Dexter's Laboratory. Professor Hawke, obviously based on Hawking,
plays the reclusive owner of a computer company, and the host
of a contest that Deedee wins by finding a golden diskette (a
la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
6. Dilbert. Was featured in an episode about Dilbert's project,
the Gruntmaster 6000, creating a black hole to wipe out all life
on Earth. During the episode, it is "revealed" that
Hawking has the power to travel through both time and space via
wormholes, and Dilbert learns the hard way that you should never
bet money that a theoretical physicist can't do something.
7. Fairly Odd Parents. Hawking appeared throughout the episode
"Remy Rides Again", in a mechanical flying wheelchair
with a rocket on the back of it, which at the end of the episode,
disappeared in a way similar to that in which the Delorean went
back in time in Back to the Future. Hawking was played by Dee
Bradley Baker in this episode. Hawking was hired by Remy to prove
that 2 + 2 = 5. Then Crocker found out that 2+2 actually equalled
8. Family Guy. Hawking's persona has been featured in the episode
"Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater"; it is a very brief cameo
during the song "This House Is Freaking Sweet"; Hawking
is presented as the man who will help Chris do his homework. Additionally,
a character known as Disabled Guy or "Paraplegic Guy"
appears to be largely based on Hawking. The character made his
first appearance in the episode "Ready, Willing, and Disabled,"
as a competitor in the Special People's Games. Later, in the episode
"Brian Goes Back to College", he is portrayed as Brian's
advanced-physics professor and known as "Steve". In
the Family Guy episode "The Bachelorette", he appeared
as one of the people being interviewed to be on an episode of
9. The Friday Night Project. Every week in the 2006 series a voice
purporting to be Hawking's, accompanied by a caption slide of
a photograph of Hawking asks a contestant a quiz question, and
confirms whether it is the correct answer.
10. Futurama. Made a guest appearance as part of a team guarding
the space-time continuum, which included Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols,
Gary Gygax, and their summer intern Deep Blue.
11. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. He was mentioned in
the episode " Test of Time" as Stephen Hawkwing.
12. Hawking. Hawking's time at Cambridge University as a Ph.D.
student was the subject of this 2004 BBC TV movie. Hawking was
played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
13. Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He was in a skit in which he
made a phone call to guest Jim Carrey.
14. MC Hawking. The imaginary alter-ego for the "theoretical
physicist turned gangster-rapper", MC Hawking's songs parody
Hawking's distinctive speech synthesizer. Song titles include
"E=MC Hawking" (“I explode like a bomb/no one
is spared/my power is my mass times the speed of light squared”),
"Fuck the Creationists" ("Fuck the damn creationists
I say it with authority/because kicking their punk asses be my
paramount priority") and "Entropy" ("You down
with entropy?") The success of the MC Hawking amongst internet
users eventually led to a 'greatest hits' compilation CD entitled
A Brief History of Rhyme (a play on Hawking's A Brief History
of Time book title). Hawking himself is said to be flattered by
15. The Onion. Satirical newspaper ran an article claiming that
Hawking's head had been mounted on a super-robotic cyborg body,
complete with a jetpack and claws that can rip through tanks.
Hawking, with his typical good humour, sent them a letter cursing
them for exposing his evil plans for world domination. Hawking
also had a printout of the article pinned up in his Cambridge
office for some time after it was published.
16. Pink Floyd. Hawking gave his "voice" to parts of
the Pink Floyd song "Keep Talking".
17. Pinky and the Brain. In an episode in which a black hole is
used as a weapon, Pinky throws it out of a hotel room window in
defiance of the laws of physics. Brain notes that he must consult
with Stephen Hawking.
18. Radiohead. Radiohead's song "Fitter, Happier" contains
lyrics that appear to be spoken by Hawking. The voice was actually
made by Thom Yorke's Apple Macintosh.
19. Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Richard and
Hawking sing "The Girl Is Mine" as a charming duet on
the album Aperitif for Destruction. (Celebrity voices impersonated.)
20. The Simpsons. Made a few guest appearances on the long-running
prime-time cartoon. In "They Saved Lisa's Brain", he
saves Lisa from the power-hungry Springfield chapter of Mensa
in a special wheelchair, complete with an Inspector Gadget–style
retractable helicopter attachment and a spring-loaded boxing glove.
(During the British Comedy Awards 2004, Hawking was presented
with a one-off toy version of himself in Simpson form by Matt
Groening, complete with boxing glove. Hawking presented Groening
with a lifetime achievement award.) In the Season 16 episode "Don't
Fear the Roofer", he is a friend of Lenny and shows up to
explain that Bart couldn't see Ray (guest voice Ray Romano) during
one scene because there was a black hole between the two of them,
leading to Homer's being put into a mental hospital. Additionally,
Homer makes a reference to Stephen Hawking when he is transported
to a three-dimensional zone in "Treehouse of Horror VI",
and claims "I wish I read that book by that wheelchair guy."
Hawking is also seen in a line of people about to board a space
ship to Mars in "Life's A Glitch, Then You Die", a segment
of "Treehouse of Horror X", in which the Earth is doomed
by the millennium bug.
21. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is seen playing poker
with holographic depictions of Stephen Hawking, Sir Isaac Newton,
and Albert Einstein at the beginning of the season six cliffhanger
Descent. Hawking portrayed his own hologram for this episode.
When taking a tour of the set, he paused at the Warp Core, smiled,
and said "I'm working on that." He is the only person
in any Star Trek series to play himself. (Season 6: Episode 26:
"Descent, Part 1".) Also, in the final episode of the
series, "All Good Things...", Data has assumed the Lucasian
professorship at Cambridge, the post that Hawking currently holds,
in an alternate future. Brent Spiner (who played Data) reportedly
quipped, in an obviously tongue-in-cheek manner, that Hawking's
cameo was "the most notable moment in television history
since Albert Einstein guest-starred on Gunsmoke".
22. TV Offal. Hawking appeared alongside Victor Lewis-Smith in
the pre-credit sequences for this short-lived British comedy show.
23. Juno Reactor. Hawking is quoted in the track "Landing"
from electronica/ambient band Juno Reactor's album Transmissions.
of former students
1. Harvey Reall 1997–2000
2. Tim Prestidge 1996–1999
3. Chris Hunter 1995–1999
4. Marika Taylor-Robinson 1995–1998
5. Raphael Bousso 1994–1997
6. Mike Cassidy 1993–1997
7. Simon Ross 1993–1996
8. Justin Hayward 1991–1995
9. James Grant 1990–1993
10. Glen Lyons 1989–1993
11. Fay Dowker 1987–1990
12. Alex Lyons 1987–1990
13. Raymond Laflamme 1984–1988
14. Jonathon Halliwell 1983–1986
15. Brian Whitt 1982–1988
16. Paul Shellard 1982–1986
17. Julian Luttrell 1981–1984
18. Bruce Allen 1980–1983
19. Ian Moss 1979–1982
20. Nicholas Warner 1979–1982
21. Mike Fawcett 1978–1982
22. Alan Yuille 1977–1980
23. Chris Pope 1976–1979
24. Malcolm Perry 1974–1978
25. Alan Lapedes 1973–1975
26. Don Page 1973–1976
27. Bernard Carr 1972–1975
28. Peter D'Eath 1972–1976
29. Gary Gibbons 1970–1972
30. Chris Prior 1968–1975