Stephen Hawking: Facts, trivia about the eminent scientist

Mar 14, 2018, 15:06 IST | A Correspondent

Renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76. The British mathematician, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease

Stephan Hawking
Stephen Hawking

British mathematician, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking, famous for his work on black holes, suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a form of motor neurone disease that attacks the nerves controlling voluntary movement. Patients typically suffer muscle weakness and wasting, become paralysed and have problems talking, swallowing and breathing. Only about 10 percent of patients live longer than a decade.

He was given only a few years to live when his condition was first diagnosed at the age of 21, but Stephen Hawking defied medical opinion by living well into his seventies. Despite spending most of his life in a wheelchair, one of the world's best known scientists was able to communicate through a computer and has even been awarded a Nobel Prize.

He was one of the world's longest surviving sufferers of this disease and would speak with the help of a voice synthesiser and it was said that it take would take up to ten minutes for Hawking to formulate a single sentence. “The only trouble is the voice synthesizer gives me an American accent,” he wrote on his website.

His scientific works include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set forth a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He is a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Despite his illness, Hawking worked at Cambridge's Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics for more than 30 years and since 1979, was the University's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

He is renowned for his books like 'A Brief History of Time' published in 1988 and its 2001 sequel, 'The Universe in a Nutshell'.

While 'A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the big bang, black holes and light cones, to the nonspecialist reader,'The Universe in a Nutshell' explores the possibility of a universe with 11 dimensions.

Professor Hawking who used to reside in Cambridge and is survived by three children and one grandchild, was awarded a CBE in 1982, became a Companion of Honour in 1989 and was a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also at the centre of controversy after he claimed that God had no role in the creation of the universe. In his book 'The Grand Design', Stephen Hawking said that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing".

He wrote, "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist... It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going." After his divorce from Jane Hawking in 1995, Stephen married one of his nurses, Elaine Mason, in September. In 1999 Jane Hawking published a memoir, 'Music to Move the Stars', describing her marriage to Hawking and its breakdown.

In 2006 Hawking and Mason divorced, and Hawking resumed closer relationships with Jane, his children, and grandchildren. Reflecting this happier period, a revised version of Jane's book called 'Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen' appeared in 2007, and was made into a film 'The Theory of Everything' in 2014.


  • What's common between Prince Harry, Katy Perry, John Lennon and Stephen Hawking? They all have all had their life stories turned into comic books.
  • Has guest-starred, as himself, on "The Big Bang Theory", "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "The Simpsons" and on British television in addition to many documentaries
  • There's an action figure of Stephen Hawking, thanks to his appearance on animated TV series 'The Simpsons'. One of which sits on his office desk.
  • Stephen Hawking and a group of other scientists along with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner have launched a 10-year project which would harness some of the world's largest radio telescopes to search for intelligent life in the universe.
  • A movie has been made on him. 'The Theory of Everything' is the story of Stephen Hawking, and Jane Wilde, the arts student he fell in love with whilst studying at Cambridge in the 1960s.
  • Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, have written a series of children's books aimed at making science accessible to kids. The books are titled “George’s Secret Key to the Universe,” “George and the Cosmic Treasure Hunt,” and “George and the Big Bang".
  • Hawking's birthday is the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei. 
  • Hawking’s computerized voice can be heard on the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking.”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch played Hawking in a 2004 TV movie.
  • In the film “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” a wizard is shown reading “A Brief History of Time.” 
  • In 1999, Hawking appeared in a television commercial for US Robotics.

Hawking’s quotes

“All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too havestarted to wonder what makes the universe exist.”

“Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.”

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

“We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

“It is not clear that intelligence has any long-term survival value.”

“One cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem.”

“It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”

Professor Stephen Hawking ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


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