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A Brief History of Hawking

Team StoryWeavers|April 3, 2018|

“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.”

He was an exception, a genius and a curious mind. Challenging the future, racing against his own time, he might be one of the powerful examples of sheer determination and hope. He made way ahead…in his wheelchair, traveled around the world, studying and giving lecturers about Time & Space.

Yes, we are addressing the prodigy, the King of Physics- Professor Stephen William Hawking, a Physicist, Cosmologist and a dreamer. “Although I cannot move, I have to speak through a computer, but in my mind, I am free,” said Stephen Hawking during one of his lectures.

Here is a brief rundown of the brilliant theoretical physicist and his groundbreaking works in the field of Cosmology and Physics.

Early Life

  • Stephen Hawking was born on 8th of January 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo.
  • At School, he was nicknamed as ‘Einstein’.
  • He did his degree in natural sciences, specializing in Physics from Oxford University, London.
  • In 1962, he graduated with first-class honors and left for Cambridge University to begin his Ph.D.

His race against time and life

  • At 21, he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
  • He returned to Cambridge to complete his PhD
  • He worked on one of the most debated topics at that period of time: ‘The existence of Universe and its birth.’
  • In 1965, he made a breakthrough discovery. His theory stated that ‘the Universe had a beginning.’ He controversially showed that there is no need of a creator or a god because the universe came to an existence all by itself.

The black-hole theory

When Stephen was working on his thesis, at that time, Physicist Roger Penrose was working on ‘what happens when a star collapses under the force of its own gravity?’ He claimed that the star would crush itself to a tiny point of infinite density where time itself would come to a stop. He called it a ‘singularity- the heart of a black hole’.

The concept of singularity refers to a one-dimensional point which contain huge mass in an infinitely small space, where density and gravity become infinite and space-time curves infinitely and where the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate. Basically, it is the center of the black hole where gravity is thought to approach infinity.

Hawking applied the same notion of singularity to the entire universe, and there he had the ground-breaking discovery about the universe.

A series of Achievements

  • Stephen did path-breaking work on singularities which proved that the universe might have begun in singularity.
  • He co-discovered the four laws of black hole mechanics.
  • His discovery in 1970 threw all the cosmologist’s finding till the date in the air. By using quantum theory and general relativity, he was able to show that black holes can emit radiations, which is now known as Hawking Radiation.
  • In 1974, his name was inducted into the Royal Society, one of the most prestigious bodies of the Scientists. His name sat along Sir Issac Newton and Charles Darwin.
  • He made contributions to the theory of cosmic inflation.
  • In 1988, his book ‘A Brief History of Time’ was published.
  • It was sold about 8 million copies and stayed on the best-seller list for over 4 years and entered into the Guinness book for the record for doing so.
  • In 2002, he was ranked as one of the 100 greatest Britons in BBC poll.

The next finding on black-hole

Initially, it was believed that a black hole can only increase, never decrease in size. It was very obvious since nothing can escape that gets close, it can only swallow more matter and gain mass.

But later it was discovered that black holes emit radiation, (known as Hawking Radiation) and gradually disappears. It was a remarkably important discovery as this result unified the Relativity theory, Quantum Theory and Fermi Dynamics, the unification of 3 concepts in the Physics.

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special,” said Stephen Hawking, the man who was certainly an outlier- who lived for 55 years with a disease which only had an average life-expectancy of 3 years. He defied the odds, not only attained his Ph.D. but also forged new roads into understanding the universe for decades.

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