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Hawking, Stephen (1921 - )
"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special. "

"I think that it's important for scientists to explain their work, particularly in cosmology. This now answers many questions once asked of religion."

-- Stephen Hawking

Stephen 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.

Hawking 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.

Hawking 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.

Research fields
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.

He 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.

When 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.

He 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.

When 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.

There 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."

Jane 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 in physics.

In 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.

As 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?"

As 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.

Losing 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").

The 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)

One 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)

Hawking 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:

The 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 1993)
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 book.

A complete list of Hawking's publications is available on his website.

Popular culture
1. Alien Planet. This is a special on the Discovery Channel. He presents some of his theories using his speaking device.

2. 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 stupid.

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 6.

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 the Bachelorette.

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 the parody.

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.

List 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

The information on which this page is based has been drawn from research on the Internet. For example, much use has been made of, to whom we are greatly indebted. Since the information recording process at Wikipedia is prone to changes in the data, please check at Wikipedia for current information. If you find something on this page to be in error, please contact us.
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