The Life and Death of Stephen Hawking

Many brilliant minds come together to form the scientific community. Science is a unique study because it is often based on theories and efforts to prove them. This allows for ongoing innovative thought and also change. Facts are not produced until theories are proven, making science ongoing learning process, even for the specialists. The scientific community houses some of the most creative thinkers in the world. They must constantly be open starting completely over when the research outcome varies. The recent death of Stephen Hawking has left the scientific world without one of its most forward-thinking individuals.

Education and Early Career

Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death, Stephen Hawking changed the world of physics with his alternate ideas about black holes. Hawking began his college career in physics by default. Oxford University had no degree plan in mathematics, his first love. He excelled in his studies, graduating with honors. He chose to further his education at Cambridge, as no program for his continued interests existed at his home university, Oxford. The Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) jumpstarted his career.

Once Hawking completed his Ph.D., he continued to work as a research fellow. A change to the Department of Astronomy in 1968 proved to be only temporary. He was back in the DAMPT program in 1973 working as a research assistant. He published his first book while working in the position, titled “The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time.” He collaborated with another scientist, George Ellis, on this project.

Hawking received several honorable placements in various societies in the following years. One of these honors included the award of Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974. By 1977 Hawking was a full-fledged professor. His area of instruction was Gravitational Physics. His most revered professor role, however, was that of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. This brought him back to his love of math from the years 1979- 2009. This position is significant, as it was founded by money donated in the will of Reverend Henry Lucas, a former member of the University parliament and was once held by Isaac Newton. Hawking eventually returned to DAMPT as a director of research. Along with Hawkins original studies, he has been awarded several more honorary degrees, totaling 13 in number.


Hawking focused quite a bit on black holes and their role in the universe. He theorized that the end of the universe would be due to black holes, while the beginning relied on the Big Bang. He spent time on these theories with the understanding that their basis depended on the cooperation of quantum theory and general relativity. This unification, however, relied on some different qualities of black holes. Previously considered to be black and unable to see in in the universe, Hawking’s change in thought process assigned the idea of “Hawking” radiation This thought process fueled a large part of Hawking’s career. He also focused on a completely scientific origin of the universe, founded in the idea of lack of boundaries in the universe in imaginary time.


Hawking has persevered in his life long after his early diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21. This neurological disease hinders muscle movement, affecting all movement and speech. His paralysis left him with two moveable fingers. He used a wheelchair to maintain his mobility. Advanced technology allowed his theories to be heard by giving him a voice. His computer, fueled by his wheelchair batteries, responds to the movement of his cheek. It takes the characters he chooses and also predicts words. The completed words are then shared with a computerized voice. He pursued his interests even after his diagnosis included the prediction of fatality in a few years’ time. He beat the odds, living to be 76. He passed recently on March 14, 2018.

Hawking continued to test the limits of physics theories throughout his lifetime. His many theories and combinations of existing theories have led to many questions that are still being researched to this day. Hawking’s thought process brought new ideas to the table, which is exactly what scientists are supposed to do. Science is a never-ending series of questions with answers that only come from dedicated researchers. Hawking in known the world over and is greatly missed in the scientific community.

Editor's Picks

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