Physicists Biographies

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds of our time, was responsible for formulating several theories about the structure of the Universe.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)*
Exactly 300 years after the death of the Italian Galileo Galilei , Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) was born in England, the scientist who would become one of the most brilliant minds of our time. Stephen Hawking was a great theoretical physicist and responsible for many contributions in the fields of cosmology and modern astrophysics . During his lifetime, he authored some controversial theories about the origin of the Universe and was the first to bring a satisfactory description of the dynamics of black holes .

Stephen Hawking Biography

Stephen William Hawking was born in the city of Oxford, England. His parents, considered very intelligent, Frank and Isobel Hawking , even with financial difficulties, graduated from the University of Oxford. Frank became director of the Parasitology division at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Hawking had two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward.

Despite wanting to study mathematics, he entered the Physics course in 1959 at University College , Oxford , against the wishes of his father, whose wish was for Hawking to become a doctor. During his graduation, he met Jane Wilde , a Letters student whom he married in 1965 and with whom he had three children, Robert, Lucy and Timothy, born in 1967, 1970 and 1979, respectively.

He married in 1965 to Jane Wilde , then a student of Letters, and with her he had three children: Robert (1967), Lucy (1970), his only daughter, and Timothy (1979), the couple’s youngest son. During his graduation period, Hawking discovered that he had a disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The consequences of this disease are mainly muscle atrophy . When doctors diagnosed Hawking, they gave him a maximum term of 2 years to live , however, his condition slowly progressed until his death date on March 14, 2018, aged 76.

In 1990, Hawking and Jane separated. Five years later, Hawking married one of his nurses, Elaine Mason . In 2006, they divorced. The separation brought him back to his family and ex-wife.

He received his doctorate in 1966 at Trinity Hall , Cambridge, and in 1979 he took the chair of Lucasian Professor at the University of Cambridge , formerly held by the English physicist Isaac Newton , in 1669.

Hawking left a great legacy for Science and, even with all his difficulties, he was able to write several books for popular science and also create theories based on advanced topics of General Relativity , Thermodynamics and Quantum Mechanics , providing valuable clues about the functioning and origin of the Universe.

His main contributions to Cosmology and Astrophysics were the following:

→ Existence of singularities in black holes

Together with English physicist Roger Penrose, in the 1970s, Hawking proved that singularities (places where space – time is infinitely curved due to great gravity) could be produced inside black holes . Hawking came to conclude that the beginning of the Universe occurred in the expansion of singularity .

Hawking concluded from his calculations that the surface area of ​​a black hole remained constant. Such a statement was as contradictory to Classical Physics as it was to Quantum Physics. He also pointed out that black holes could be more easily described in terms of some fundamental variables, such as mass , angular momentum , and the amount of electric charge . In addition, at that time, the English physicist even claimed that it was not possible to obtain any information about the interior of a black hole, since even light could not escape its strong gravitational pull .

→ Black holes evaporate

Stephen Hawking was not afraid to contradict himself and change his mind. After having stated that nothing was able to escape a black hole, he showed that a specific thermal radiation was able to escape it. This radiation became known as Hawking Radiation , which only exists due to the quantum effects that originate inside black holes because of low temperatures. Also, after all of their radiation is emitted, black holes simply evaporate, as if they never existed. This strange behavior of black holes left, for Hawking, the suggestion that one day the Universe may simply cease to exist.

→ Quantum fluctuations

Quantum Mechanics deals with infinite possibilities for particles. For Hawking, fluctuations in probabilities during the period after the Big Bang , known as the inflationary period , would have shaped the Universe as we know it today, including the shape of the forces of nature .

Science popularization books

Stephen Hawking was the author and co-author of 15 popular science books, despite his great motor difficulties . In his later works, he used a computerized interface to assist him. Through the movement of his chin or eyes, he formed approximately one word per minute.

Among his main publications, “ A brief history of time ” stands out . Published in 1988, the work sold over 10 million copies. Its great success was due to the language used by Hawking, accessible even to the layman. Other highly successful titles were “ The Universe in a Nutshell ” and “ A New History of Time ”.

Cinema – The Theory of Everything (2014)

Stephen Hawking’s popularity gained strength in the year 2014 after his life was portrayed in theaters by the movie “ The Theory of Everything ”. The physicist was played by actor Eddie Redmayne , who won an Oscar in the best actor category for that film.

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