Stephen Hawking Dies at 76 (Download PDF)

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Scientist and author Stephen Hawking has died aged 76. His family confirmed that he had died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, Britain. What were Discoveries of Stephen Hawking? - In 1970, Hawking realised the mathematical approaches he developed with mathematician Roger Penrose could be applied to black holes, a term coined by physicist John Wheeler.

Image of Stephen Hawking

Image of Stephen Hawking

Image of Stephen Hawking

  • Hawking worked for the next four years on black holes, discovering they weren’t totally black, but leaked radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation”.

  • He also proved that black holes have existed at a micro level since the Big Bang, and the smaller they are, the faster they evaporate.

  • For 30 years, Hawking was Cambridge’s Lucasian professor of mathematics, a chair once held by Isaac Newton. Then US president Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hawking in 2009, the year of his retirement.

  • His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the tantalising prospect of time travel to the mysteries of space’s all-consuming black holes.

  • Hawking redefined cosmology by proposing that black holes emit radiation and later evaporate.

  • He also showed that the universe had a beginning by describing how Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity eventually breaks down when time and space are traced back to the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago

  • In 2015, Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking in The Theory of Everything, a film about the scientist’s life.

Books

  • The British physicist brought science to a mass audience with the best-selling book “A Brief History of Time”.

  • It sold at least 10 million copies in 40 languages and was on the best-seller list of Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper for a record 237 weeks.

  • The book outlined the basics of cosmology for the general reader.

  • The other books he wrote are The Universe in a Nutshell (2001), On the Shoulders of Giants (2002), A Briefer History of Time (2005) and The Grand Design (2010).

What Was His Disability?

  • Hawking suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was confined to an electric wheelchair for much of his adult life.

  • Diagnosed at age 21, he was one of the world’s longest survivors of ALS.

  • Hawking’s fame increased as his health worsened. After his degenerative muscle disorder was diagnosed, he defied medical opinion by living five decades longer than expected.

  • He communicated his ideas through an American-accented speech synthesizer after a life-saving tracheotomy in 1985 took away his ability to speak.

  • To the layman, the robot-like voice only seemed to give his words added authority.

His Experience

  • Professor Hawking went on to become a researcher at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow at the Gonville and Caius College.

  • He was a Lucasian Professor at the university from 1979 to 2009, a position previously held by Isaac Newton in 1663.

  • But the power of his intellect contrasted cruelly with the weakness of his body, ravaged by the disease he contracted at the age of 21.

  • He became director of research at the university’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology after retirement from his post of professor.

Personal Details

  • Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Italian physicist Galileo Galilei.

  • Hawking’s father, Frank, was a doctor of tropical medicine.

  • His mother, Isobel, was a tax inspector and a secretary.

  • He had two younger sisters and a brother.

  • While he was a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, also known as motor neuron disease.

  • He completed his doctorate on the origins of the universe, became a research fellow at Caius College.

  • The Nobel Prize in Physics proved elusive for Hawking, whose theories required observational data to win the praise of the awarding committee in Stockholm. The Nobel Foundation excludes posthumous nominees.

  • After catching pneumonia in 1985, Prof Hawking needed around-the-clock care and relied on a computer and voice synthesizer to speak.

  • It could take up to ten minutes for him to formulate a single sentence.

  • In 2007, Prof Hawking took a zero-gravity flight in Florida, the first time in 40 years he abandoned his wheelchair.

What is a Black Hole?

  • Black holes are formed when a massive star collapses under the weight of its own gravity.
  • Detected by the movement of surrounding matter, they devour everything in their path and may play a role in the birth of galaxies.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 1, 2018

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