British theoretical physicist and cosmologist– Stephen Hawking was born on 8th January 1942 in Oxford, England. The ‘genius’ was born to Frank Hawking and Isobel Hawking. Despite financial constraints, Stephen’s parents were well read and educated. They both attended the University of Oxford. Hawking had two younger sisters and even an adopted brother. In 1950 Hawking’s father became the head of division of parasitology at the National Institute of Medical Research and then the family moved to St. Albans, Hertfordshire.
While they were in St. Albans, the family was perceived to be highly intelligent and eccentric. It’s been said that each person had their meals by silently reading a book. The family lived in a large poorly maintained house and traveled in a converted London taxicab. It’s believed that Stephen Hawking was not academically successful initially, however, he made tremendous progress with time and displayed great aptitude for scientific subjects. He was popularly known as “Einstein” in school. Hawking took up Physics and Chemistry as subjects after earning a place in Oxford University though his father always wanted him to pursue Medicine. The option of choosing mathematics was not available at that period.
Hawking began his University education in October 1959 at the age of seventeen. He completed his graduation at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in October 1962. While he was a graduate student, he began to get closer to Jane Wild who was his sister’s friend. He hadn’t been diagnosed with motor neurone disease then. They got engaged and later married in 14 July, 1965. They became parents to three children- Robert, Lucy and Timothy.
It was during his graduate years and during his courtship that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Needless to say, he was deeply saddened by the diagnosis and eventually he fell into a depression. However, his doctors advised him to continue his studies. The doctors expected him to live only two years however life had different plans for the ‘genius.’
Hawking’s disease weighed heavy on Jane and at times Jane felt overwhelmed with the influx of nurses and assistants. Graduate and post graduate students would often come home and assist in taking care of Hawking, on Jane’s proposal.
Hawking didn’t believe in God and declared himself as an atheist. His atheist views was another area that put a strain on his marriage, as Jane was a staunch Christian. He never believed in the existence of Heaven or afterlife. He once stated “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
In the midst of taking care of Hawking, Jane had developed a keen interest in singing and in the interim got close to Organist Jonathan Hellyer, whom she met while singing in a church choir. Since they were determined not to break the family, they kept their relationship purely platonic. Eventually, Hawking had also grown close to one of his nurses- Elaine Mason, much to the surprise of colleagues and caregivers. He moved out of the family home and his ties with Jane and family became weaker. There were speculations that he was being physically abused, which initiated police investigations. Stephen Hawking however didn’t make any complaint. In 2006, Hawking and Mason quietly divorced and he resumed being close to Jane and his children.
Hawking was inspired by Mathematician Roger Penrose’s theorem of space-time singularity in the centre of black holes and he followed the same principles. It was on this topic that he wrote his thesis which was approved. He obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in general relativity and cosmology. His essay titled “Singularities and the Geometry of Space” bagged him the prestigious Adam’s Prize.
Continue reading @ The Inspiring Life And Journey Of A True Genius- Stephen Hawking
Note: This post was first published in Scrabbl.