Stephen Hawking: An Exceptional Scientist of All Time
Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant and well-known scientists of our time, was a brilliant theoretical physicist and one of the world’s most renowned scientists. Hawking’s work on black holes and the origins of the universe have made him a celebrity scientist. Till date, he remains one of the most popular ambassadors for science ever. Hawking’s early years were difficult. He developed a progressive form of motor neuron disease, which eventually made it impossible for him to even move his hands. He communicated using a computer and voice synthesizer. Despite his health problems, Hawking pursued his studies and research with relentless determination. He continued to work as a physicist and wrote numerous books on cosmology and theoretical physics. In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University – the same post held by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years earlier.
Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January, 1942 in Oxford. His father, a research biologist, was away from home during World War II, working on the Manhattan Project. When Hawking was eight, his family moved to St Albans, a town about 20 miles north of London.
Childhood Life and Education:
The first two years of his education were difficult because of his disease and the need for a wheelchair.
He lost his speech and he had his entire body paralyzed, leaving him to use a communication device without voice: he used a text processor under the supervision of his caregiver instead of speaking.
He attended Byron High School and St. Albans School respectively.
By 1974, Stephen Hawking had developed severe health problems due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In 1976, it was possible to calculate an exact survival time for Hawking in his first year after the surgery, and by 1992 they were able to prove that this was the case for several years past as well. They estimated Hawking’s life expectancy by analyzing patient brain growth patterns. That same year physicians administered the first experimental drug – Riluzole – to alleviate some symptoms, but Hawking eventually developed necrosis because of its toxicity.
By 1979, he was completely paralyzed, and was an only child who needed his mother to help him live. His condition at that time was terminal.
After continued setbacks in his university period, Hawking left Cambridge and moved to London. He later received Honorary Degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1980, the universities of Leeds and St Andrews in England in 1989, and the Dolman Institute of War Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2000.
Stephen Hawking never thought that his life would take an interesting turn at later stage. He never thought that he would get such innovation and beauty in his waking life. After getting severe motor neuron disease he was totally confined and crippled. No one could ever know what he was going through. At schools he was feared. That was when his imagination ran away.
Initially, Hawking had worked on the Theory of Singularity, the same topic first explored in his doctoral thesis. In 1970, he started working on Black Hole Dynamics. His research on Black Hole earned him the first notable award by Gravity Research Foundation in 1971. He returned to Cambridge in 1975 and continued his study on Black Hole. This study opened up a new dimension of his career; it led to the intensive study of the concept of ‘Time’. For the rest of his life, Hawking continued his research on ‘Time’ and initiated exploration of extraterrestrial existence.
Notable works authored by Stephen Hawking include:
A Brief History of Time (1988)
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)
The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
On the Shoulders of Giants (2002)
God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005)
The Dreams That Stuff Is Made of: The Most Astounding Papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World (2011)
My Brief History (2013)
Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018)
Besides earning many awards and accolades, Stephen Hawking had achieved something extraordinary, that an ordinary man would not dare to dream even. In the year 2006, in one of his interviews, he wished to spend some time in space. Very soon his journey to space was arranged and the trip was sponsored by Richard Branson. Though many of his well wishers were apprehensive about the trip, he successfully had undergone a trial test of space journey in 2007. Unfortunately, commercial trip to space did not start before his death. But, his effortless and easeful gravity-less trial journey inspired a lot of lives with difficulties on earth.
Stephen Hawking passed away on 14th March, 2018. Although, when and how Stephen Hawking died has been a topic of controversy for years. This is because of the highly unusual circumstances surrounding his death. The official cause of death from the government is a motor neuron disease. There has been speculation that he died from a combination of other diseases. There is speculation that he died from a kind of rare degenerative muscle wasting disease which has been called Gaman disease. There is also speculation that his death was the result of the rare form of epilepsy called Jackson-Weiss syndrome. The world witnessed his funeral on 31st March, 2018. Even after his death, he got perhaps the highest degree of honour as his ashes are kept between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.