Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

NEW DELHI March 14, 2018: British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, 76, died, media reports said on Wednesday.

He was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942.

Hawking had suffered since the age of 21 years from a degenerative motor neuron disease, which did not let him move a muscle. He was speechless but for a computer-synthesised voice.

In such a physical condition he found the strength to complete his doctorate and rise to the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the same post held by Isaac Newton 300 years earlier.

Hawking once said, “My goal is simple to complete understanding of the universe.” He spent much of his career searching for a way to reconcile Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum physics and produce a ‘Theory of Everything’.

He wrote an international bestseller, ‘A Brief History of Time’ (1988). The book sold millions of copies and was translated into more than 20 languages and it inspired similar books from Hawking, including ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’ and ‘A Briefer History of Time’.

With his daughter, Lucy, he wrote a series of children’s books about a young intergalactic traveller named George. His blunt 2013 memoir, ‘My Brief History’, explored his development in science as well as his turbulent marriages. In addition, Hawking was the subject of a 1991 documentary, ‘A Brief History of Time’, directed by Errol Morris, and countless newspaper and magazine articles.

With the help of a voice synthesizer, controlled by his fingers on a keyboard, he gave speeches around the world, from Chile to China. He played himself on such TV programmes as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons

His scientific achievements included breakthroughs in understanding the extreme conditions of black holes, objects so dense that not even light can escape their gravity.

His most famous theoretical breakthrough was to find an exception to this seemingly unforgiving law of physics: black holes are not really black, he realised, but rather can emanate thermal radiation from subatomic processes at their boundary, and can potentially evaporate. Scientists refer to such theoretical emanations as “Hawking radiation.”

His father was a physician and specialist in tropical diseases; his mother was active in the Liberal Party.

Both parents were Oxford-educated, and Stephen — the eldest of four siblings — grew up surrounded by books.

He received a doctorate in 1966 and became a postgraduate research physicist at Cambridge.

At a young age of 32, Hawking was named a fellow of the Royal Society. He received the Albert Einstein Award, the most prestigious in theoretical physics. He joined the Cambridge faculty in 1973 as a research assistant in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics; he was promoted to professor of gravitational physics in 1977.