Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Stephen Hawking's life in pictures

Stephen Hawking's life in pictures

His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the potential prospect of time travel to the mysteries of space's all-consuming black holes.

But fate also dealt Hawking a cruel hand.

The Theory of Everything became the title of the 2014 film that charted Professor Hawking's early life and how he came to terms with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the crippling disease that gradually paralysed him. A severe attack of pneumonia in 1985 left him breathing through a tube, forcing him to communicate through an electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his distinctive robotic monotone.

"I am quite often asked: how do you feel about having ALS?" he once wrote.

"Although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before".

Physicist Stephen Hawking sits on stage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New York April 12, 2016.

Inside the shell of his increasingly useless body was a razor-sharp mind, fascinated by the nature of the Universe, how it was formed and how it might end. In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations - tiny variations in the distribution of matter - might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe.

"Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science".

He received his PhD in applied mathematics/theoretical physics, with specialty in general relativity and cosmology from the University of Cambridge in 1966, and was appointed to a professorship there in 1977. A previous holder of the prestigious post was the 17th-century British scientist Isaac Newton.

Characteristically, he did not see the trip as a mere birthday present. How he manipulated Einstein's equations in his mind when he could no longer hold a pen I can't even begin to imagine. "But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life".

More recently, he said artificial intelligence (AI) could contribute to the eradication of disease and poverty, while warning of its potential dangers.

Like numerous great theorists, Stephen Hawking had the ability to use very simple thought experiments to make predictions about the behaviour of the universe.

Hawking is survived by three children - Robert, Lucy and Timothy - from his first marriage to Jane Wilde, and three grandchildren.

Hawking's genius brought him global fame and he become known as a witty communicator dedicated to bringing science to a wider audience.

"Hawking shot to worldwide fame after the 1988 publication of "“A Brief History of Time", one of the most complex books ever to achieve mass appeal, which stayed on the Sunday Times best-sellers list for no fewer than 237 weeks.

He followed up "A Brief History of Time" in 2001 with the more accessible sequel "The Universe in a Nutshell", updating readers on concepts like super gravity, naked singularities and the possibility of an 11-dimensional universe. His best-known prediction, named by the community as Hawking Radiation, transformed black holes from inescapable gravitational prisons into objects that instead shrink and fade away over time. "Thank you for inspiring us and the world". Hawking married his one-time nurse Elaine Mason four years later, but the relationship was dogged by rumors of abuse.

His life has been portrayed in various movies where award-winning actors like Benedict Cumberbatch (Hawking) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) played his character.

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