Stephen Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England. His family had moved to Oxford to escape the threat of V2 rockets over London. As a child, he showed prodigious talent and unorthodox study methods. On leaving school, he got a place at University College, Oxford University where he studied Physics. His physics tutor at Oxford, Robert Berman, later said that Stephen Hawking was an extraordinary student. He used few books and made no notes, but could work out theorems and solutions in a way other students couldn’t.
In 1974, he outlined his theory that black holes leak energy and fade away to nothing. This became known as “Hawking radiation” in 1974. With mathematicians Roger Penrose he demonstrated that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.
Despite being one of the best physicists of his generation, he has also been able to translate difficult physics models into a general understanding for the general public. His books – A Brief History of Time and The Universe in A Nutshell have both became runaway bestsellers – with a Brief History of Time staying in the Bestsellers lists for over 230 weeks and selling over 10 million copies. In his books, Hawking tries to explain scientific concepts in everyday language and give an overview to the workings behind the cosmos.
Stephen Hawking has become one of the most famous scientists of his generation. He makes frequent public engagements and his portrayed himself in popular media culture
from programmes, such as The Simpsons to Star Trek.
The onset of Hawking’s graduate education at Cambridge marked a turning point in his life. It was then that he embarked upon the formal study of cosmology, which focused his study. And it was then that he was first stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a weakening disease of the nervous and muscular system that eventually led to his total confinement in a wheelchair. At Cambridge his talents were recognized, and he was encouraged to carry on his studies despite his growing physical disabilities. His marriage in 1965 was an important step in his emotional life. Marriage gave him, he recalled, the determination to live and make professional progress in the world of science. Hawking received his doctorate degree in 1966. He then began his lifelong research and teaching association with Cambridge University.
Ferguson, Kitty. Stephen Hawking: A Quest for a Theory of the Universe. New York: F. Watts, 1991.
Henderson, Harry. Stephen Hawking. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1995.
McDaniel, Melissa. Stephen Hawking: Revolutionary Physicist. New York: Chelsea House, 1994.
White, Michael, and John Gribbin. Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science. New York: Viking, 1992.