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EST. 14th of February, 2012


Professor Stephen Hawking dies: Family announces death



Professor Stephen Hawking, who died today aged 76, is being remembered for his colossal achievements in astrophysics - and for defying the odds to live a long and incredible life.



The greatest mind of our generation, physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, has died at the age of 76 after a long struggle with motor neurone disease.

His children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.”

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

If you hadn’t seen the wheelchair-bound genius on documentaries or the news, you’d probably have had a window to his early life through the movie The Theory of Everything.

Hawking beat the odds.

He lived decades longer than his doctors predicted when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — Lou Gehrig’s disease — when just 21.

By the end, he had lost almost all control over every muscle in his body.

For years he had only been able to communicate through individually tailored technology, exploiting what limited muscle control he had to activate a virtual computer keyboard.

He never gave in to despair.

Instead, he thought - and through his thoughts, he opened new horizons for humanity.

Hawking admitted he felt “somewhat of a tragic character” after the diagnosis, but he soon returned to work, securing a fellowship at Cambridge, and married Jane Wilde, with whom he had three children.

Brian Dickie, research director of the MND Association, previously said most sufferers live for less than five years — “the fact that Stephen Hawking has lived with the disease for close to 50 years makes him exceptional”.

The rest of the world will always remember Hawking for his groundbreaking work on the origins of the universe, space and time, and black holes.


Much of Hawking’s work centred on bringing together relativity (the nature of space and time) and quantum theory (how the smallest particles in the universe behave) to explain the creation of the universe and how it is governed.

In 1974, aged just 32, he became one of the youngest fellows of Britain’s prestigious Royal Society. Five years later he became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post once held by Isaac Newton.

His fame moved beyond academia in 1988 with the publication of his book A Brief History of Time, which explained the nature of the universe to nonscientists, and sold millions of copies worldwide.

Hawking’s stardom was later cemented in cameos in Star Trek and The Simpsons, where he tells the rotund Homer Simpson that he likes his theory of a “doughnut-shaped universe”, and may have to steal it.

Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal and a former president of the Royal Society, first met Hawking when they were both research students “and it was thought he might not live long enough to finish his PhD degree”.

Rees said his survival made him a “medical marvel”, but stressed that it was his work that would prove his lasting legacy.

“His fame should not overshadow his scientific contributions because even though most scientists are not as famous as he is, he has undoubtedly done more than anyone else since Einstein to improve our knowledge of gravity,” he said.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8 in 1942, but grew up in St Albans.

The eldest son of Frank and Isobel Hawking, both Oxford University graduates, Hawking was one of four children.

His birth came at a difficult time for his parents, who struggled for money despite his father being a respected medical researcher.

England was dealing with World War II and the onslaught of German bombs, so in an effort to raise their first child in a safer environment, Isobel returned to Oxford to give birth to Stephen.

They went on to have three more children, Mary in 1943, Philippa in 1947 and Edward, who was adopted in 1956.

The Hawkings have been described in many notable biographies as an ‘eccentric’ family, who ate dinner in silence and were intense readers.

Their car was a London taxi and they lived in a beaten up old home, where they housed bees in the basement and produced fireworks.

As Hawking grew older, his father wanted him to go into the medical business but he had a passion for science and ‘the sky’.

His mother is quoted as having said: “Stephen always had a strong sense of wonder, and I could see that the stars would draw him.”

It has also been reported he loved to dance and took an interest in rowing.

Despite being world renowned for his excellence, Hawking was not what his teachers would have called an ‘exceptional student.’

During his first year at St. Albans School he was almost at the bottom of his class, so he instead turned his focus to being creative outside of school.

When he was a teenager he constructed a computer out of recycled parts for solving rudimentary maths equations, along with a group of friends.

He may have not been focusing on his education but in 1962, he graduated with honours in natural science and went on to attend Trinity Hall at Cambridge University for a PhD in cosmology.

His graduate studies weren’t initially what he expected, as he found his training in mathematics irrelevant in cosmology.

Then Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and fell into severe depression after being given two years to live.

However his disease was progressing slower than doctors predicted.


Through the encouragement of his uni supervisor Dennis William Sciama, Hawking returned to his studies and started building a reputation for brilliance, notably when he wrote his thesis on the topic of the creation of the universe: the Big Bang and Steady State theories.

His theory was approved in 1966, and he went on to receive a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, where he got his PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, and his essay titled ‘Singularities and the Geometry of Space-Time’ gained top honours to win the 1966 prestigious Adams Prize.

It would be another eight years until his research would turn him into a celebrity in the science world, when he shared his findings that black holes weren’t the ‘information vacuums’ scientists had long reported.

To put it simply, Hawking transformed black holes from inescapable gravitational prisons into objects that instead shrink and fade away over time.

A fellow up-and-coming cosmologist, Roger Penrose, had previously discovered historical findings about the fate of stars and creation of black holes, so the pair teamed up and worked together.

This partnership set up Hawking’s career as he fast gained notoriety and awards, including the coveted Albert Einstein Award, for changing the way people thought about black holes and the universe.


The science world is mourning for the man that pioneered modern cosmology and in doing so, inspired many physicists to do what they do.

High profile Australian science communicator Dr Alan Duffy said Hawking’s illness made his achievements “near super-human.”

“Professor Hawking was an inspiration to me to become not just a scientist but a communicator of that science,” he said.

“His work as a cosmologist, and discoveries in black hole physics were legendary.

“His writings were inspirational to many scientists and enriched the lives of millions with the latest science and cosmic perspectives.

“He was also wonderfully funny with a fantastic media savviness that propelled him into A-list celebrity stardom as few other scientists before.

“Through it all, of course, his illness made his achievements near-superhuman. How he manipulated Einstein’s equations in his mind when he could no longer hold a pen I can’t even begin to imagine.

“While his many contributions will live on there is no doubt that science and the wider world is the poorer for his passing.”



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Wherever he is (whether that's heaven or simply nowhere), at least he's no longer struggling with ALS. That living hell is gone, now.


The world sadly lost one of its greatest minds, though.

ST34MF0X likes this

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He will be missed. His legacy will be enlightenment and the quest for knowledge. May he rest in peace.

Founder and current project lead of the TiaraCE project.

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