Stephen Hawking was born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. From an early age, he showed a passion for science and the sky. At age 21, while studying cosmology at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Despite his debilitating illness, he has done ground-breaking work in physics and cosmology and his several books strive to make science accessible to everyone.The eldest of Frank and Isobel Hawking’s four children, Stephen William Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo, which has long been a source of pride for the noted physicist. Stephen was born into a family of thinkers. At a time when few women thought of going to college, the Scottish-born Isobel earned her way into Oxford University in the 1930s, making her one of the college’s first female students. Frank Hawking, another Oxford graduate, was a respected medical researcher with a specialty in tropical diseases.
Stephen Hawking was born to Frank Hawking, a research biologist, and Isobel Hawking. He has two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward. Although Hawking’s parents were living in North London, he was born in Oxford as his parents felt it was safer to stay in Oxford for the later stages of the pregnancy. (London was under attack at the time by the Luftwaffe.)When his father became head of the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research in 1950, Hawking and his family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire. Hawking attended St Albans High School for Girls from 1950 to 1953 (At that time, boys could attend the girls’ school until the age of 10). and then from the age of 11, he attended St Albans School, where he was a good, but not exceptional, student.Inspired by his mathematics teacher, Hawking originally wanted to study the subject at university. However, Hawking’s father wanted him to apply to University College,Oxford,
where his father had attended. As University College did not have a mathematics fellow at that time, applications were not accepted from students who wished to study that discipline. Hawking therefore applied to read natural sciences with an emphasis in Physics. He was accepted and gained a scholarship. While at Oxford, he coxed a rowing team, which, he stated, helped relieve his immense boredom at the university. His physics tutor, Robert Berman, later said “It was only necessary for him to know that something could be done, and he could do it without looking to see how other people did it. … his mind was completely different from all of his contemporaries”.
Early in his academic life Stephen, while recognized as bright, was not an exceptional student. At one point in high school, his mother recalled, he was third from the bottom of his class. Instead, Stephen turned his mind loose on pursuits outside of school. He loved board games, and with a few close friends created new games of their own. At the age of 16 Stephen, along with several buddies, constructed a computer out of recycled parts for solving rudimentary mathematical equations.Hawking’s unimpressive study habits resulted in a final examination score on the borderline between first and second c
lass honours, making an “oral examination” necessary. Berman said of the oral examination: “And of course the examiners then were intelligent enough to realize they were talking to someone far more clever than most of themselves”. After receiving his B.A. degree at Oxford in 1962, he left for graduate work at Trinity Hall,
Cambridge.he mid to late 1970s were a period of growing fame and success for Hawking, his work was now much talked about, he was appearing in popular television documentaries
and in 1979 he was made the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post he held for 30 years until his retirement in 2009. Hawkin’s inaugural lecture as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics had the title “Is the end in sight for Theoretical Physics” and promoted the idea the supergravity would help resolve many of the outstanding problems that Physicists were studying.
In collaboration with Jim Hartle, Hawking developed a model in which the universe had no boundary in space-time, replacing the initial singularity of the classical Big Bang models with a region akin to the North Pole: one cannot travel north of the North Pole, as there is no boundary. While originally the no-boundary proposal predicted a closed universe, discussions with Neil Turok led to the realisation that the no-boundary proposal is also consistent with a universe which is not closed.
Along with Thomas Hertog at CERN, in 2006 Hawking proposed a theory of “top-down cosmology”, which says that the universe had no unique initial state, and therefore it is inappropriate for physicists to attempt to formulate a theory that predicts the universe’s current configuration from one particular initial state.Top-down cosmology posits that in some sense, the present “selects” the past from a superposition of many possible histories. In doing so, the theory suggests a possible resolution of the fine tuning question.
Hawking made news in 2012 for two very different projects. It was revealed in early April that he had participated in a 2011 trial of a new headband-styled device called the iBrain. The device is designed to “read” the wearer’s thoughts by picking up “waves of electrical brain signals,” which are then interpreted by a special algorithm, according to an article in The New York Times. This device could be a revolutionary aid to Hawking and others with ALS.Also around this time, Hawking showed off his humorous side on American television. He made a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory, a popular comedy about a group of young, geeky scientists. Playing himself, Hawking brings the theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) back to Earth after finding an error in his work. Hawking earned kudos for this lighthearted effort.