Stephen Hawking was a visionary physicist and one of the most renowned scientists of modern times. This British scientist was particularly famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and his book, A Brief History of Time, which spent four years at the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list and was sold in millions of copies translated into 40 languages, brought him to stardom.
The book gave an overview of space and time, as well as the future and the existence of God. Hawking went on to write more books.
While he was a teenager, he wasn’t the best in his class. In fact, he was third from the bottom, but during the last two years of school, he was dubbed ‘Einstein’ by his classmates. Being the son of scientists, it didn’t come as a surprise that young Hawking developed love for science himself.
PRINCETON, NJ – OCTOBER 10: Cosmologist Stephen Hawking on October 10, 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)
At one point in his life, when he was still a teenager, he fell for mathematics, but his father wasn’t happy about it. “He thought there wouldn’t be any jobs for mathematicians except as teachers. He made me do the chemistry and only a small amount of mathematics. I’m now a professor of mathematics, but I have not had any formal instruction in mathematics since I left St Albans school aged 17,” Hawking said in 2013.
He got a first in Physics from Oxford, and started a PhD at Cambridge.
At the age of 21, Hawkins was diagnosed with ALS and that changed his life forever.
“When you are faced with the possibility of an early death, it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are lots of things you want to do,” Hawking told New York Times.
“In my last year at Oxford, I noticed I was getting increasingly clumsy. I went to the doctor after falling down some stairs, but all he said was, ‘Lay off the beer,’” but he knew the beer wasn’t the problem.
After an incident on a lake when he fell out skating and wasn’t able to stand up, his mother urged him to go to the hospital. He then underwent a number of tests over the course of two weeks.
“They took a muscle sample from my arm, stuck electrodes into me, and then injected some radio-opaque fluid into my spine and with X-rays watched it go up and down as they tilted the bed. After all that, they didn’t tell me what I had, except that it was not multiple sclerosis and that I was an atypical case,” he recalled.
“I gathered, however, that they expected it to get worse, and there was nothing they could do except give me vitamins, though I could see they didn’t expect them to have much effect. I didn’t ask for more details because they obviously had nothing good to tell me.”
Once they determined he suffered from ALS, or known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Hawking was given two and a half years to live. But he proved doctors wrong and lived a fulfilled life until 76.
When he lost the ability to walk, and later to speak, Hawking communicated through a program called Equalizer, developed by computer expert in California named Walt Woltosz.
“This allowed me to select words from a series of menus on the screen by pressing a switch in my hand. I now use another of his programs, called Words+, which I control by a small sensor on my glasses that responds to my cheek movement,” the great scientist explained. “When I have built up what I want to say, I can send it to a speech synthesizer. One’s voice is very important. If you have a slurred voice, people are likely to treat you as mentally deficient. This synthesizer was by far the best I’d heard because it varies the intonation and didn’t speak like a Dalek from Doctor Who.”
With his wife Jane Wilde, Hawking had three children, among which his only daughter, Lucy Hawking, who is keeping her father’s legacy alive.
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
“When I was young, he wasn’t the world’s most famous physicist,” Lucy Hawking told Today in 2007.
“The fame didn’t arrive until the publication of “A Brief History of Time,” by which time I was in my late teens. When I was a child, he was well known among physicists, but they are a fairly select, serious bunch, not much given to celebrity idolizing.
What was most striking was the high level of attention his electric wheelchair attracted. I suppose that in the 1970s, it was quite unusual to see a disabled person drive himself around in a wheelchair. People really did stop and stare. (He did drive his chair extremely fast and sometimes in a rather perilous fashion.) I’m so glad that these days, disabled access is so much better and that disabled people are treated with more dignity by the general public.”
Lucy studied French and Russian, and later theater. She worked as a journalist who wrote for several newspapers in both the UK and the US, and then she and her father wrote their first book together.
George’s Secret Key to the Universe revolves around George, who learns about the universe by traveling around and exploring it.
“I have a 9-year–old son, and I thought it would be wonderful if my father and I could write something together that would explain my grandfather’s work to my son. To explain physics to kids, we decided to use the events in the story to illustrate concepts,” Lucy told Today.
“It was a fascinating process. Working with my father was a great thrill — he has the amazing ability to hold enormous amounts of information in his head, but also to pick out relevant details and make brief comments, which can completely transform your way of thinking,” she added.
“My father is an expert when it comes to framing difficult subjects in accessible language. He was an absolute pleasure to work with, and I felt very honored to have this opportunity.”
Together, they wrote more books.
When Hawking and Lucy’s mother divorced and he married one of his nurses, Lucy was depressed.
Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018, and Lucy was heartbroken.
“Even though with someone who has been ill for a very long time, you wouldn’t think that their death could shock you, but it did,” Lucy said. “He always said that your legacy was in your children and in the work you left behind.
“And so I think it’s very, very important that we take the elements of the work he did, which lies in his work in cosmology and physics, but also in his outreach in his work in education, his advocacy for the NHS and for disability rights. And we carry that on.”
Even today, Lucy is involved with her late father’s foundation.
Please SHARE this article with your family and friends on Facebook.
Love and Peace