If you casually mention the name Stephen Hawking in conversation, you are likely to get a number of reactions from people.Some people know him from cameo appearances in movies or TV shows like The Big Bang Theory. Others have leafed through his popular book, A Brief History of Time. People recognize him as an outspoken representative for the disabled, and a leader of the scientific community.But how many people know him for his research? Professor Hawking has certainly lived an impressive life, and he is an inspiring public figure.With all the distractions surrounding Professor Hawking, most people forget about the groundbreaking discoveries that he has helped develop in the science of Cosmology.Through this essay, I hope to share some of his scientific work the reader.
Like with any story, we must begin at the beginning.Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo.He came from a relatively modest background.His family did have a rather strong academic tradition though.Both of his parents had attended and graduated from Oxford, and his father, Frank, was appointed Head of the Division of Parasitology at the National Institute of Medical Research after the end of World War II.His family lived in the small town of St. Albans.When Stephen was 10 he was sent to St. Albans School, a private school with an excellent academic reputation.Stephen was naturally gifted and remained near the top of his class.He ran with a small group of friends who were all good students and they spent a great deal of time discussing intellectual matters.Hawking graduated from St Albans and was admitted to Oxford on a scholarship1.
Many scholars are surprised to hear that Hawking did his undergraduate work at Oxford.Most people associate him with Cambridge where he did his graduate work, and where he is now the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position that has been held by such distinguished physicists as Isaac Newton.At Cambridge, Hawking concentrated on math and physics.As and undergrad, he was somewhat bored. His class work was no challenge to him at all, so he didn’t need to study as much as the other students.He could get by on his natural talent. Consequently had quite a reputation as a prodigy2.
Hawking did have a hard time adjusting to college life.All his friends from St. Albans were gone, and he had a hard time making new ones.That all changed when he joined the rowing team.He was a coxswain, and he was good, but he was never really competitive like some of the other rowers.He just wanted to party and have fun3.
Hawking graduated from Oxford and moved on to Cambridge to study under the legendary Fred Hoyle.Hoyle was the most distinguished British astronomer of the time.Instead, Hawking worked with Dennis Sciama in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.He managed to make a splash early by challenging some Hoyle’s ideas after a public lecture.After Hoyle had finished...