Stephen Hawking was not only a brilliant scientific mind respected by those in his particular field, but also an ambassador for science, a social advocate, and a symbol of human perseverance.
He was born in Oxford, England on January 8th, 1942 to to Frank Hawking and Isobel Walker. After graduating from Oxford University with a first-class honors degree in physics, he continued on to University of Cambridge for postgraduate research in astronomy and cosmology. Then, at age 21, he was diagnosed with the fatal degenerative motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The doctors told him he wouldn’t live for more than two or three years.
Instead of giving up, Hawking went back to complete his doctorate. He then proceeded to make numerous contributions to the science community. His discovery of the phenomenon which became known as Hawking radiation—which explained how black holes could lose energy and eventually evaporate into nothing—revolutionized the way scientists relate quantum mechanics and relativity. He became a Companion of Honour, a Fellow of The Royal Society, a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and received many other awards and honors throughout his life.
His achievements were not limited to the realm of physics; he was also a highly successful author, lecturer, and popularizer of science. When he lost his ability to speak completely in 1985, Hawking switched to using a speech synthesizer constructed at Cambridge. He used his electronic voice to continue to write books and scientific papers, lead lectures, and communicate with people. In 1988, he published the book A Brief History of Time, which became an international bestseller. In 1979, he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a famous and highly honorable academic position once held by Sir Isaac Newton. He used his computerized speech system to raise his voice on issues from climate change to Palestinian rights.
Hawking lived life with extreme determination, defying all the odds, never letting his physical limitations stop him from succeeding. Thank you, Professor Stephen Hawking, for being an inspiration to all.
Stephen Hawking died peacefully at age 76 on March 14, 2018, in Cambridge, UK.
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