Stephen William Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author that made great strides in the world of science despite the challenges that he faced. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease when he was 21 years old, and it slowly paralyzed him throughout his life, but it never set him back. He had an incredible mind, and he accomplished so much. On March 14th of 2018, he passed away peacefully in his home. Here is a look back at some of the things he achieved throughout his 76 years with us. One curious thing about his life is that he was born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death and died on the 139th anniversary of Einstein’s birth, which is an incredible coincidence (or proof that the universe is more mysterious than we thought).
Played Himself on Star Trek
If any three men in history ought to sit down and play a game of poker together, it’s got to be Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton. Do you agree? Luckily, they did have that opportunity in 1993 on the season finale of Star Trek. In the episode titled “Descent,” the three joined the table with an android and shared a friendly game of cards. To date, Stephen Hawking remains the only person in history to play himself on the series. Hawking was a great fan of the show, so I’m sure that the honor that it was wasn’t lost on him at all. Hopefully, he gets to join the other two science greats for another game of poker very soon.
The Hartle–Hawking State
The Hartle-Hawking State is one of the most prominent theories on the history of the universe and has remained so for since Stephen Hawking partnered with James Hartle to propose the model in 1983. People have been theorizing about how the universe began since they had the mental capacity to do so, so for this theory to be so widely used and highly regarded is monumental in the world of science. The Hartle-Hawking State says that time didn’t exist before the Big Bang so that there was no definite beginning nor any limits of time and space.
Four Laws of Black Holes
James Bardeen, Brandon Carter, and Stephen Hawking discovered the four laws of black hole mechanics. These are four laws that all black holes are believed to satisfy. They correspond to the laws of thermodynamics. Hawking’s essay on this was titled “Black Holes”, and it was published in 1971 when he was only 29 years old. For this essay, he won the Gravity Research Foundation Award, which is incredibly prestigious. This research laid a foundation for quintessential discoveries in science to be made.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
When asked about his disability, Stephen Hawking explained that “the human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance.” He truly never let the severity of his disability or the fact that he was confined to a wheelchair for the majority of his life affect him. This is why he is one of the most influential examples of achieving the extraordinary in the face of adversity. Because of that, he is one of the few scientists that have ever received the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Royal Society of London
The Royal Society of London is the simplified name of The President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. This society is the oldest national scientific institution in the world, having been chartered in 1660 by King Charles II. The organization now grants awards and prizes as well as just funding to several research initiatives and provides expert advice to the European Commission and the United Nations. Stephen Hawking was one of the youngest members ever to be elected at the age of 32.
It had initially been thought that nothing could escape a black hole, and Stephen Hawking was the first one to propose otherwise in 1974. This was hugely controversial at the time because this Hawking Radiation went against everything scientists knew. This was one of the most significant breakthroughs in theoretical physics. The Hawking Radiation is blackbody radiation that is predicted to be released by black holes because of quantum effects happening near the event horizon. This was observed in a laboratory and essentially proven in just the past few years.
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics
The Lucasian Chair of Mathematics is a professorship in the University of Cambridge, for the subject of mathematics. It was established originally in 1663 by a member of the University’s Parliament named Henry Lucas. King Charles II made it an official position a year later, and it has been described as being among the most prestigious academic posts in the world. Previous holders of this include Isaac Newton. Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1980 to 2015.
Gravitational singularities are really important in physics, but explaining what they are is a little bit technical. Basically, a gravitational singularity is a one-dimensional point with infinite mass in an infinitely small space. Picture a dot on a sheet of paper; that dot has infinite gravity and an endless space-time curve. What happens in a gravitational singularity is that all of the laws of physics as we understand them mean nothing. The rules are that there are no rules. The universe was theorized to begin as a singularity. Stephen Hawking proved their existence along with mathematical physicist Roger Penrose.
Stephen Hawking contributed to the theory of cosmic inflation. Cosmic inflation is the theory of how the universe expanded following the Big Bang. It is currently accepted that expansion happened at an exponential rate in the beginning before slowing down to slower but consistent expansion. This theory is widely accepted in the realm of science. Hawking contributed by calculating the quantum fluctuations that were created during cosmic inflation, and he was one of the first to do so. His contributions explained how galaxies spread throughout the universe.
Authored Over 10 Books
Even though Stephen Hawking lost his voice throughout his life and eventually ended up speaking by computer, he had some very moving things to say. Some of the ones that stick out the most aren’t about science at all, including “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny,” and a personal favorite, “People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” He had a lot to say throughout his life, authoring over ten books. His “A Brief History of Time” is one of his most famous; it has sold over ten million copies in more than thirty languages. This book was so crucial because Hawking broke down the most fundamental parts of astronomy and modern physics and presented them in nontechnical terms. This made these things accessible to the average reader one of the first times in history.