An outstanding thinker and scientist, bold provocateur and a fun maker, Stephen Hawking led an incredible life. His authority in the scientific world was extremely high, and his image was widely replicated in mass culture, from the CSI crime show to the animated series “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” The events of his life became the basis for several feature films. He played himself in the popular shows “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory.” He was a haughty clever man with those who knew and understood a little less than himself, and wrote books about the structure of the universe, understandable even for children. He was the father of three children and a man whose love was rivaled by women.
Severe illness, life in a wheelchair, paralysis, loss of ability to speak – yes, these were difficult tests, but it seems that they did not prevent the scientist from achieving his goals and a success in any field.
March 14, 2018, the heart of Stephen Hawking stopped. Undoubtedly, this is a tragic loss for his loved ones. But on the contrary to scientific and logical arguments, there is a fantastic hope in the air that Hawking simply started something new and went to check out his next theory.
The future parents of Stephen Hawking met in London, at a medical research institute shortly after the outbreak of World War II. They were actively interested in science and studied at Oxford University. His father studied medicine and his mother studied philosophy and economics. Being afraid of the bombing Frank and Isabel Hawking moved from London to Oxford in 1942, where they had a son they called Stephen.
Сhildren were given serious attention to education in the Hawking family. Stephen always knew more than his peers, although he studied with breaks – because of illness, then because of the relocations due to his father’s research work. He earned a nickname Einstein at school because he had very high academic scores. Stephen Hawking learned mathematics, physics and chemistry on his own, greatly outstripping the school curriculum. A year before his peers he passed the entrance exams in March 1959 and became an Oxford student at age 17.
Hawking wanted to devote all his strength to science and did not want to be distracted by entertainment. But study was too easy to him and took too little time, so that the young student became bored soon and started looking for interaction with his classmates. Stephen Hawking wanted to become popular in the student community.
Hawking’s Oxford mentor, a physics teacher, Robert Berman, recalled his talented mentee:
Hawking approached the communication with other students just as he approached a scientific task. Within a few weeks he turned into a witty and sociable young man, music and science fiction lover, captain of the university rowing team and a desperate daredevil, who was welcomed in any company.
But all this did not reconcile the student dreamed about science, with his study in Oxford, which seemed him to be too slow and sluggish. Hawking did not hide his intellectual superiority to the less talented students and teachers and criticized the professors. So in the end, both Hawking himself and the Oxford teachers breathed a sigh of relief when he decided to continue his education and scientific work at Cambridge.
Stephen Hawking began his research work in the field of cosmology and quantum gravity in 1962 at Cambridge University and it became his main dedication in the entire life. His successes were impressive, he was given the glory of the greatest theoretical physicist of the century. Hawking himself was confident that he would make great discoveries, because he actually did not meet the tasks that he was not able to manage,.
But an unexpected hit blew away this confidence in a few months. Doctors diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and predicted that the patient had to live a maximum of two years. An incurable disease of the central nervous system caused progressive paralysis, and the term, measured by physicians, made further research work meaningless. It would be enough to just drop your hands forever and just wait for the end to come.
Hawking not only physically felt bad, but also suffered from depression. It soon became clear that the disease progressed more slowly than doctors had expected, and Stephen Hawking returned to work, realizing that he still had time for research. After he took the doctorate on the properties of expanding universes, he continued his studies in Cambridge and began to lecture on the theory of gravitation, mathematics, and physics, despite the fact that because of the illness, it became increasingly difficult for him to walk and talk.
A support of his friends and his fiancee Jane Wilde let him overcome the difficult time. Stephen and Jane started to date before the young scientist was diagnosed with the illness, and in 1965 the young people got married. They have three children. The couple lived together for more than 30 years, coping with the problems, which became more and more severe because of Stephen’s deteriorating well-being. In 1995 Hawking broke up with his first wife and got married with Elaine Mason, who was his nurse. After 11 years of marriage, Elaine and Hawking divorced, and the scientist began again to get closer to the first wife, children and grandchildren.
Everything can be turned into success
Almost everything the world knows about Hawking is the result of painful attempts and his ability not only to overcome them, but again and again to accept these conditions without losing courage and sense of humor. It seems that these qualities gave Hawking supremacy, the ability to turn everything into success.
Stephen Hawking suffered pneumonia in severe form in 1985. It was necessary to accomplish several operations on the trachea resulted in lost of the speech ability. Friends of the scientist gave him a speech synthesizer, detached to his wheelchair. The device was operated with the help of the index finger. But the paralysis progressed, and soon the mobility was preserved only in one mimic muscle in the cheek area. So the speech synthesizer was rebuilt and then controlled by the sensor attached to this cheek.
The synthesizer receives signals of the sensor and converts them into sounds of voice, into words recorded in advance. The first synthesizer reproduced the speech with a strong American accent. Later, when new models appeared, the sound of an artificial voice could be chosen, but Hawking refused, he got used to the initial accent and considered it to be his own. And the world agreed that this voice suits the British genius.
His digital speech not only sounds in several popular music tracks. The scientist himself sounded his character in the animated series “The Simpsons” and “Futurama”, starred in “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory”, and became the voice of the narrator behind the scenes of the movie “Chronicles of the Future”. In an interview, he was asked a question about what the public is mistaken about. “People think I’m a Simpsons character,” Hawking said coolly, probably realizing that he was a real star, like Michael Jackson or Madonna. And it did not bother him at all. His success in show business made other initiatives of Hawking even more successful.
The things he discovered became the basis for a new science, a quantum cosmology. He studied the black holes, predicted the events associated with them, he understood this phenomenon, absolutely incomprehensible to most people. At the same time, he knew how to tell people about the Universe, the complex and multidimensional processes in it in that simple way that his books on theoretical physics became bestsellers: The Brief History of Time (1988), The Black Holes and Young Universes (1993), The World in nutshell “(2001).
In 2006, he began writing a series of children’s books with his daughter Lucy Hawking. George and the secrets of the universe, George’s space hunt for treasure, George and the Big Bang, George and the indestructible code, George and the Blue Moon – these stories about the adventures of six friends in the company of the clever scientist and supercomputer became the same for children as “A Brief History of Time” was for their parents. It is a simple and exciting explanation of things that previously seemed incomprehensible.
Most people live in their homes, cities, countries. The whole universe was home for Hawking as it was familiar and understandable to him as to no one else. His curiosity and desire to try, learn and understand something new have always been stronger than any obstacles, doubts and fears. This is what led him to victory over circumstances, to success and definitely to happiness. After all, there are not many healthy people who could describe themselves with Hawking’s words: