Where do we come from? How did the universe begin? Why is the universe the way it is? Did it stretch forever or was there a limit? And where did it all come from? Where are we going?
"If, like me, you have looked at the stars and tried to make sense of what you see, you have started to wonder what makes the universe exist. The questions are clear and deceptively simple but the answers have always been beyond our reach -- until now." --Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking one of the most brilliant physicists ever, was born in Oxford on January 8th of the year 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo Galiley (¿¿coincidence??), during World War II.
As a kid he was a bit too clumsy, a bit too smart. But he had no idea how these things would shape his life; his clumsiness become a crippling disease, and his smartness a great intellect.
His career started in Oxford University in 1958 where he became really interested in thermodynamics, quantum mechanics and relativity theory. In 1962 he went to Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, where he got his Physics degree.
But during this time as a student something that would change his life forever occurred to him, Hawking contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable degenerative neuromuscular disease that handicaps movement and speech. He continued working despite the disease's progressively disabling effects. This disease confined him most of his adult life into a wheelchair then he caught a really serious pneumonia this required a tracheotomy, what unable him to talk anymore. But even his physical limitations nothing could confine him intellectually. He simply never allowed his illness defeat his scientific development. In fact, this allowed him to focus his life more on his science.
Several years later Hawking received a present that really improved his hard life, a revolutionary computer attached to his wheelchair that started to help him to talk again.
But why is he considered one of the smartest persons ever? The answer to this question is easy, because he has managed to do more than any other scientist to increase our understanding of the universe. His theories about black holes and the origin and nature of the cosmos had been revolutionaries.
In 1970 Hawking's research turned to the examination of the properties of black holes, he suggested the formation, following the big bang, of numerous objects containing as much as 1,000,000,000 tons of mass but occupying only the space of a proton. He called these objects mini black holes; those were unique in their immense mass and gravity that require that the laws of relativity rule them, while their size requires that the laws of quantum mechanics apply to them also. In 1974 Hawking proposed that, in accordance with the predictions of quantum theory (Quantum mechanics is the theory that describes how subatomic particles behave and how matter and radiation interact), black holes emit subatomic particles until they exhaust their energy and finally explode. His efforts in that helped to explain the properties of black holes, objects, which it was previously thought that nothing was supposed to be able to escape, but he discovered that they emit thermal radiation. To try to explain this phenomenon he proposed that when a particle pair is created near a black hole, one half of the pair might disappear into the black hole, leaving the other half to radiate away from the black hole. To a distant observer, the radiation of the leftover particle would appear as thermal radiation.(Hawking, Stephan William, Microsoft Encarta Enciclopedia 2002)
During the 1990s Hawking produced theoryes that connected several theories used by scientists to explain the universe. The properties of space-time, the beginning of the universe, and a unified theory of physics are all fundamental research areas of science. Hawking has made, and continues to make, major contributions to the modern understanding of all these areas.
His most important publications are: The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, and 300 Years of Gravity.
His work is published in three popular books; his best seller A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays and most recently in 2001, The Universe in a Nutshell.
Professor Hawking has twelve honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He is the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes and is a Fellow of The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and one grandchild), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures.
He is a unique person with an extraordinary mind who changed the vision of the cosmos forever...