Stephen Hawking, a prominent cosmologist and physicist, is considered one of the greatest scientists of the modern era. Apart from being a brilliant scientist, he authored several books and a few children’s novels. He has also helped the world demystify several mysteries about space, black holes, and gravity.
Despite suffering from a debilitating illness that made him rely on a wheelchair, he continued to make outstanding contributions to science. The story of his life was depicted in the movie Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.
Read this post to learn some fascinating facts about Stephen Hawking for kids.
Stephen Hawking Biography
Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford to Dr. Frank Hawking, a tropical medical specialist, and Eileen Isobel Hawking. He took up Natural Sciences at University College, Oxford, at the age of 17 and did his bachelors there. He performed well and went on to attend Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1962 for further studies.
When he was 21, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease that results in gradual loss of muscle control.
Stephen Hawking dreamed about studying the laws that govern the universe. So, he started his serious career by writing a paper with Roger Penrose about black holes. They proved that the universe started with the Big Bang.
His academic career took off in the 1970s.
- In 1975, he became a Reader in Gravitational Physics at Cambridge.
- In 1977, he was appointed as Professor of Gravitational Physics.
- He was subsequently honored with the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1979 due to his exemplary work on black holes. This position was previously held by Issac Newton. He held on to the position until 2009.
- In 2007, he set up the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, a research center within the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.
Marriage and family life
Stephen Hawking married his first wife Jane in 1965 and had three children, Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. Stephen Hawking and Jane separated in 1990 and then divorced in 1995. Stephen then married Elaine Mason that same year. However, their marriage ended in 2007.
Black holes are black voids in space with a gravitational force so strong that not even light can get out. Stephen Hawking mathematically proved Einstein’s theory of relativity, which posits that the universe started with a big bang and will end in black holes.
Earlier, it was believed that the gravity of black holes is so strong that nothing can get out of them. However, in 1974, Stephen Hawking gave a lecture explaining that energy particles can escape from the black hole. This emission may cause the black hole to lose mass and slowly shrink. This radiation is called Hawking radiation.
When this theory was announced at Oxford, it was intensely debated. However, it has received widespread acceptance today.
Honors and awards
Stephen Hawking received many honors and awards for his exceptional achievements in the field of science. The following are a few of the many.
- In 1974, at the young age of 32, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was the recipient of the first Albert Einstein medal in 1979.
- He was honored with the position of CBE – Commander of the British Empire by Buckingham palace in 1982.
- He was awarded the Copley medal in 2006, which is the highest honor of the Royal Society.
- In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
Interesting Facts About Stephen Hawking
Here are a few interesting facts about the inspirational Stephen Hawking.
1. He was told he had only two years to live
At the age of 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a debilitating condition called motor neuron disease (MND). The doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years. However, Stephen Hawking fought against all odds and lived for 55 years more.
Hawkings was born on January 8, 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei and died on March 14, 2018, which is also the birthday of Albert Einstein.
3. He wanted to travel to space
Stephen Hawking was an avid supporter of space travel to find other planets to live on. He went on the zero-gravity flight in a Boeing 727 jet and experienced weightlessness. When Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Group, invited him on his first space flight, he happily accepted. Unfortunately, he could not fulfill this dream.
4. He wrote a bestseller
Stephen Hawking wanted the general audience to understand science, and hence, he took six years to write his book, A Brief History of Time. In this book, he explained complicated scientific facts in simple language. The book became a bestseller and has sold over nine million copies.
5. He lost his voice due to a life-saving procedure
After contracting the progressive illness MND, he got a second blow to his health in 1985. He contracted pneumonia while attending a science conference in Geneva. An emergency tracheostomy had to be done to save his life. As a side effect, he lost his speaking voice.
6. He never won the Nobel Prize
Stephen Hawking’s key theory is known as “Hawking Radiation,” which hypothesizes that black holes emit radiation and slowly dissipate. However, this cannot be confirmed by observational data because of the lack of proper technology. Since experimental confirmation is required to win a Nobel Prize, he could not win it.
7. He used his voice synthesizer to write books and scientific papers
Despite losing his voice and his ability to write, he did not stop writing. He used the voice synthesizer devised by Intel to write seven books and several scientific papers. He overcame the limitations of the system by learning to express his complex ideas concisely.
8. He co-authored adventure science novels with his daughter Lucy
Stephen Hawking wanted to get young readers interested in science. So, he co-authored a series of six adventure science novels with his daughter Lucy Hawking. The first book they wrote is titled George’s Secret Key to the Universe.
9. He appeared on several TV shows
Stephen Hawking appeared on several popular TV shows such as Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons (animated version), and Star Trek: Next Generation. These appearances played an important role in making him the face of modern science.
10. He wanted to take up mathematics in college
Stephen Hawking’s first choice of subject in college was mathematics, not physics. However, his father, Frank Hawking, wanted him to take up medicine as he believed that job opportunities in mathematics are scarce. They both reached a middle ground, and Stephen Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry.
Stephen Hawking’s scientific legacy lives on. He has inspired many children to study the mysteries of the cosmos. Introducing your child to these fascinating facts about Stephen Hawking is a great way to get them interested in science.
2. Stephen William Hawking CH CBE; Royal Society Publishing
3. What Are Black Holes?; NASA
4. Academic Lectures – Into a Black Hole; Stephen Hawking Foundation
5. The Illustrated A Brief History of Time; Penguin Random House
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