Stephen Hawking (1942-)

English theoretical physicist and mathematician. Born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford. Hawking graduated in Physics from Oxford University in 1962. He continued his studies moving to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. It was while he was a postgraduate that Hawking was diagnosed as having ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which affects movement and speech.

Hawking’s research has been concerned with the nature of space-time and its singularities, breakdowns in the space time-continuum where the laws of physics no longer apply. Since 1970 Hawking has worked on the properties of black holes and the behaviour of matter near them. In 1974 he found that black holes emitted thermal radiation.

He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, became Lucasian professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1980 and was made Companion of Honour in 1989. Hawking published A Brief History of Time in 1988, which gives a popular account of cosmology. His current research hopes to pull together work from quantum mechanics and relativity theory to give a unified quantum theory of gravity.