Birthday Special: The Extraordinary Life And Work Of Stephen Hawking.

“I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first”
This is what he used to say and what he lived by. Today, it is his 77th birth anniversary and also his first birth anniversary which the world is celebrating without him.We are referring to no one other than our beloved Professor Hawking!

Professor Hawking

The most celebrated British cosmologist Stephen William Hawking was born in England on Jan. 8, 1942 , exactly 300 years after the death of the astronomer Galileo Galilei. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to St. Albans School and then on to University College, Oxford, where he studied physics, despite his father’s urging to focus on medicine. Later Hawking went on to Cambridge to research cosmology, the study of the universe as a whole.

 In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “ALS”).He was not expected to live more than two years. Hence, completing his doctorate did not appear likely. However, Hawking defied all the odds, and not only attained his Ph.D. but also forged new roads into the understanding of the universe in the decades since. ALS gradually paralysed him over the decades. However, as determined and dedicated he was, even after the loss of his speech, he was still able to communicate through a speech-generating device, initially through use of a hand-held switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.

Hawking worked primarily in the field of general relativity and particularly on the physics of black holes.In his work, and in collaboration with Penrose, Hawking extended the singularity theorem concepts. This included not only the existence of singularities but also the theory that the universe might have started as a singularity. In 1971, he suggested the formation of numerous objects containing as much as one billion tons of mass but occupying only the space of a proton. These objects, called mini black holes, are unique in that their immense mass and gravity require that they be ruled by the laws of relativity, while their minute size requires that the laws of quantum mechanics apply to them also. In 1974 Hawking proposed that, in accordance with the predictions of quantum theory, black holes emit subatomic particles, known as hawking radiations after him, until they exhaust their energy and finally explode. Hawking’s work greatly spurred efforts to theoretically delineate the properties of black holes. His work was also important because it showed these properties’ relationship to the laws of classical thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

Professor Hawking delivering a lecture

Professor Hawking was awarded several awards and honours throughout his life for his extraordinary contributions to science.
In 1966 he won the Adams Prize for his essay ‘Singularities and the Geometry of Space-time’.Professor Stephen Hawking received thirteen honorary degrees. He was awarded CBE (1982), Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009). He was the recipient of many medals and prizes, most notably the Fundamental Physics prize (2013), Copley Medal (2006) and the Wolf Foundation prize (1988). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Part of his life story was depicted in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything.

Professor Hawking was a notable science communicator. Over the years, Stephen Hawking wrote or co-wrote a total of 15 books. His book ‘ A Brief History of Time’ spent more than four years atop the London Sunday Times’ best-seller list.It has sold millions of copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 40 languages.His other publications include The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (1973; coauthored with G.F.R. Ellis), Superspace and Supergravity (1981), The Very Early Universe (1983), The Universe in a Nutshell (2001), A Briefer History of Time (2005), and The Grand Design(2010; coauthored with Leonard Mlodinow).

In late 2006, Hawking revealed in a BBC interview that one of his greatest unfulfilled desires was to travel to space,on hearing this, Richard Branson offered a free flight into space with Virgin Galactic, which Hawking immediately accepted. Besides personal ambition, he was motivated by the desire to increase public interest in spaceflight and to show the potential of people with disabilities.During his life,Hawking also expressed concern that life on Earth is at risk from a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, global warming, or other dangers humans have not yet thought of. Hawking also raised questions about intelligent life, about future superhumans, about existence of god and many more.

Hawking taking a zero gravity flight in a reduced gravity aircraft

However, on March 14, 2018, one of the brightest star in the cosmos finally sucumbed to the disease which was supposed to have killed him about five decades ago. His death greatly affected the scientific community. Fellow theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss tweeted: “A star just went out in the cosmos. We have lost an amazing human being. Stephen Hawking fought and tamed the cosmos bravely for 76 years and taught us all something important about what it truly means to celebrate about being human.”
You will always be missed Dr.
Happy Birthday!


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