Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking is a world renowned quantum physicist who was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942. This was the three-hundredth anniversary of the Italian Scientist, Galileo Galilei’s death. Stephen was born during WWII to Isobel and Frank Hawking. Frank was from a farming back ground while Isobel’s father was a doctor. Neither could afford college fees easily yet both were able to attend Oxford.

At just two weeks old Stephen was almost killed when a neighbor' s home was destroyed during the war by a V2 rocket which damage the Hawking’s home while they were away. After the war ended, Stephen grew up in the historic and upper class areas of England. He went to private schools and then to Oxford as his parents had. As a child he was awkward, skinny and 'puny, with clothes that tended to look messy as he was so thin. He had a slight lisp. His teachers found him to be bright but not much above the other students while in elementary school. He lacked dexterity in his hands, but still did his three hours of homework every night.

As a youth he loved to create games with his friends. They would gather and play them on weekends and holidays at Stephen's home. Stephen would create many of the rules that were so complex that the games would take so much time, one turn could last an entire afternoon.

As Stephen began getting ready for college he began working in the fields of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. His father hoped he would become a doctor but Stephen had other ideas. By 1958 he and his friends created a computer called LUCE - the Logical Uniselector Computing Engine.

When Stephen attended Oxford on a scholarship he focused on mathematics and physics as he showed a strong interest in theories. He focused on the theory of relativity from Einstein and the study of cosmology, which deals with the bending of space and space as related to time.

1963 was a turning point for Stephen as on the first day of the year he met his future wife Jane Wilde and then soon began under going tests which diagnosed him with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was only given two years to live. He was depressed but while dating Jane and attending his work at the college he was able to use his mind without any signs of his illness. He walked with canes and eventually turned to a wheelchair. His speech was quickly affected by the illness.

While working to receive his Ph.D. and make a name for himself at the school, Stephen proved himself able to handle great levels of theoretic equations in his head. He would speak with friends and eventually applied the theory of singularity to the entire universe as a result of these discussions. In 1965 he became a published author on the subject of singularities. At the age of 23 he received his Ph.D. This was one year less than allowed by the school for receiving a Ph.D. Stephen was applying singularities to the concept of the black hole, as it was known then.

In 1965 Jane and Stephen were married. In December they traveled to Florida for a conference. Stephen's speech was difficult to understand and a friend who had come from Texas to attend the same conference agreed to speak for him. The lecture about singularities was received with mixed reviews. He presented that black holes had a center and black holes do not remain constant.

By 1970 he saw his second child Lucy born. While thinking about black holes he realized that if he focused his attention on the horizon surrounding the black hole instead of the singularities, which occurred inside the black hole, you should be able to find differences in the surface. This is to say that instruments, which are in orbit around earth, could detect the effects of a black hole. The energy that is in space at a black hole can be detected by its gravitational pull as a distortion in space around the area of a black hole. Objects in space would be pulled down in a spiral direct into a black hole by the gravitational pull. Gas would then pile up and as it got hotter it would be converted into energy and emit X-rays. This theory allowed for the identification of the first black hole to be defined as Cygnus X-1.

Most of his work was done while working with Roger Penrose, a mathematician who wrote the equations as Stephen communicated them while they worked together during several years on their theory. They applied the thermodynamics principals, to the singularities and relativity theories. When the first issue of their book was published, it was already out of date and had to be revised immediately.

These principals included the belief that the flow of the universe must always either increase or decrease. All things change and wear out which is linked to the passing of time. This change when applied to the black hole meant that they were not constant. It would react to the change in temperature as the energy would eventually cool off or increase through the changes in fuel. If a black hole had a temperature it would have heat flowing out.

Stephen took this farther and applied this to the beginning of time. He believed that if taken back far enough the black hole would be small enough it could hold a single gram. As this grew and increased it became the universe. Small mini holes would have formed and would last forever. His work has been used to try and prove God's creation of the world and although Stephen is not a religious man, his theories have been used by many religious organizations.

Stephen has written books and articles, which were published on a scientific level, beyond most people's ability level. His ALS has created many difficulties, which he has over come through the use of technology. He communicates to the world through the use of special computers designed in California, which allow him to communicate using only two fingers as he has no motor control over his body and is unable to speak any longer. His mind is still hard at work and is still working to define how the universe was created, what all a black hole can do, and where do things go once they enter the black hole. He also is trying to define what can escape from the surface area of a black hole, that they aren't truly black inside, and that black holes rotate and are also non-rotating. He takes this farther in defining that particles and antiparticles are in everything in space much the same as those which have been found in cosmic rays.

Stephen Hawking was of interest in that he has redefined how we look at space, energy and the connections with in many of life's ideas. He did this all within his mind and overcame not only the ALS but the awkwardness of childhood, the acceptance of science in a time when society was changing drastically, and is said to have kept his humor through it all and not given up.



White, Michael and John Gribbin. Stephen Hawking A Life in Science. Penguin Books USA Inc., N.Y., N.Y. © 1988

Carol L. Notti


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