Stephen William Hawking is a British theoretical physicist, cosmologists and author. Among his significant scientific work have been a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularities theorems in the frame work of general relativity. His theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, is often called as Hawking radiation. He was the first to set forth a cosmology explained by a union of general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
Hawking has a motor neurone disease related to amyoprophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years. He is almost entirely paralysed and communicates through a speech generating device.
Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 in Oxford, England to Frank and Isabel Hawking. He began his schooling at the Byron House School; he later blamed its ‘progressive methods’ for his failures to learn to read while at the school. Later Hawking attended Radlett school for a year and then St. Albans School.
Hawking at the age of 13, fell ill and remained with a close group of friends with whom he enjoyed board games, the manufacture of fire works, model aeroplanes and boaks and long discussions about Christianity and extra sensory perception. From 1958, and with the help of the mathematics teacher, Dikran Tahta, they built a computer from clock parts, and an old telephone switch board and other re-cycled components. He was known as ‘Einstein’ at school. But Hawking was not initially successful academically.
Hawking went upto Oxford in 1959 at the age of 17. He has estimated that he studied about 1000 hours during his three years at Oxford. He was held in higher regard than he believed: as Berman commented, “the examiners were intelligent enough to realize they were talking to someone far cleverer than most of themselves”. After receiving a first class BA (Hons.) degree, he began his post graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1962.
Hawking’s first year as a doctoral student was a difficult one. The diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21. At the time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of 2 years. Hawking preferred to be regarded as “a scientist first, popular science writer second, human being with same desires, drives, dreams and ambitions as the next person”.
Hawking’s work with Carter, Werner Israel and David C.Robinson strongly supported Wheeler’s no-hair theorem that no matter what the original material from which a black hole is created; it can be completely described by the properties of mass, electrical charge and rotation. An essay titled ‘Black Holes’ won the Gravity Research Foundation Award in 1971. Hawking’s first book ‘The Large Scale Structure of Space Time’ written with George Ellis was published in 1973.
Beginning in 1973, Hawking moved into the study of quantum gravity and quantum mechanics. To Hawking’s annoyance, his much checked calculations produced findings that contradicted his second law, which claims black holes should never get smaller. Hawking’s disability meant that the responsibilities of the home and family rested firmly on his wife’s increasingly overwhelmed shoulders leaving him more time to think about physics.
Hawking returned to Cambridge in 1975 to a new home, a new job – as Reader. Hawking was also making a transition in his approach to physics, becoming more intuitive and speculative rather than insisting on mathematical proofs. Hawking began a new line of quantum theory research into the origin of the universe. In 1981 at a Vatican Conference he presented the work suggesting that there might be no boundary – or beginning or ending – to the universe.
Initially the no-boundary proposal predicted a closed universe which had implications about the existence of God. As Hawking explained, ‘if the universe has no boundaries but is self contained…..then God would not have had any freedom to choose where the universe began’. Asking in, A Brief History of Time, “Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?”.
In his early work, Hawking spoke of God in a metaphorical sense. He wrote, if we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – far than we should know the mind of God. In the same book he suggested the existence of God was unnecessary to explain the origin of the universe.
In the 1990s, Hawking accepted more openly the mantle of role model for disabled people, including lecturing on the subject and participating in fund raising activities. At the turn of century, he and eleven other luminaries signed the “Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability” which called on governments to present disability and protect disabled rights.
A longstanding Labour Party supporter, Hawking had also increasingly made his views known on a variety of political subjects. He called the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “war crime’. He has been maintaining his long standing company for nuclear disarmament and has supported stem cell research, universal health care and action to protect climate change.
Hawking has stated that he is ‘not religious in the normal sense’ and he believed that ‘the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws. He regarded the concept of Heaven as a myth, believing that there is no heaven or afterlife and that such a notion was a ‘fairy story’ for people afraid of the dark.
Hawking said that ‘philosophy is dead and philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science and that scientists have become the bearers of torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge’. Philosophical problems can be answered by science, particularly new scientific theories, which “lead us to a new and a very difficult picture of the Universe and our place in it”.
At latest in May 2013, Professor Stephen Hawking has backed the academic boycott Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli President in Jerusalem as a protest as Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Hawking married twice and has three children.
Compiled by : Nietszhe