Stephen Hawking

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Who: Stephen William Hawking

What: English theoretical physicist.

Where: Born Oxford, England.

Why: One of the most influential scientists of the modern age. 

When: Born January 8, 1942.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

Born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s death, Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England. He received mediocre grades in school, despite his teachers noticing his genius from an early age. He applied, at his father’s behest, to Oxford University, but with his poor grades could attend without a scholarship. He aced the scholarship exams, scoring almost a perfect score on the physics exam. He wanted to study mathematics, but had to read physics and chemistry instead, as Oxford had no mathematics program at the time. After Oxford he went to Cambridge to study cosmology as part of his graduate work, where he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live at the age of 21. After graduating with a D.Phil in Cosmology and in increasingly deteriorating health, he set to work on the Penrose-Hawking theorems with Roger Penrose, the idea that black holes emit radiation and further work into the science of black holes, helping to create the Boundless Universe Theory and publishing the seminal physics book A Brief History of Time, published in 1988. Between 1979 and 2009, he was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge Univeristy – Isaac Newton‘s old job. Appearances on shows such as The Simpsons, Star Trek and voice work on The Big Bang Theory have solidified his fame as one of the most influential living scientists. His awards and accolades are extensive: the Wolf Prize, Prince of Asturias Award, Copley Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom, but to date he has not been awarded a Nobel Prize.  Despite his grim diagnosis at the age of 21, he is still alive, at the age of 72, outliving the diagnosis by 49 years.

Hawking at NASA in the 1980s.

Further reading:

http://www.hawking.org.uk/about-stephen.html

http://www.space.com/15923-stephen-hawking.html

http://library.thinkquest.org/C007571/english/advance/biography.htm

http://www.nndb.com/people/563/000022497/

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