Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking
Credit: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network

Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA (1942 - 2018)

Stephen was born in 1942 in Oxford, during World War II. When he finished school, Stephen decided that he wanted to study mathematics at university, but his father wished he would choose medicine instead. He was accepted into University College Oxford, however they did not offer a degree in mathematics, and so Stephen chose to study physics. After three years (and, in his words, "not very much work"), he graduated with a first class honours degree in natural sciences.

From there, he went on to study cosmology at Cambridge University. He earned a PhD and eventually became a professor, staying at the university for many years.  

Stephen's research focused on the basic laws which govern our Universe. Alongside Roger Penrose, he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied both space and time began at the Big Bang and would end in black holes. His most famous discovery is that of Hawking radiation: the idea that black holes are not completely black, but emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear.

He published many popular science books, in which he discussed his own theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time was a best-seller for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Stephen was awarded 12 honorary degrees, and many distinguished awards during his career such as the CBE and Companion of Honour. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

In 1963, shortly after his 21st birthday, Stephen was diagnosed with ALS, a form of motor neurone disease. He was given a life expectancy of two years. After the loss of his speech, Stephen used a computerised voice system for communication and was actively involved in research and public engagement throughout his life. His final research paper was published posthumously after his death in 2018.