Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

Scientist and author Stephen Hawking, 76, died March 14, 2018 at home in Cambridge, England. Hawking was a brilliant physicist, whose many accomplishments include the discovery of “Hawking radiation,” the energy that emerges from black holes a discovery that marked a turning point in modern physics. Hawking was also a popularizer of science, famous for bestselling non-fiction book A Brief History of Time (1988). He also co-wrote five middle-grade SF novels with his daughter Lucy Hawking, beginning with Golden Duck Award finalist George’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007, with Christophe Galfard).

Stephen William Hawking was born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. He attended University College at Oxford, where he studied math and physics and became fascinated by cosmology. He moved to Cambridge for graduate school, and earned his PhD in 1966. In 1963 he was diagnosed with ALS, with doctors estimating he had fewer than three years left to live. He proved to have a rare variant of the disease that progressed more slowly, and until 1974 was able to feed himself and move around under his own power, albeit with difficulty. While the disease eventually reduced his mobility until he could only move his eyes and flex a finger, he continued to communicate with a computerized speech synthesizer and remained mobile in a motorized wheelchair. His illness didn’t stop him from traveling the globe, and he visited all the continents, including Antarctica. In 2007 he took a parabolic flight so he could experience weightlessness, explaining that, “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965; they separated in 1990. Her book about their relationship, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen (2007) became the basis for a film about Hawking, The Theory of Everything (2014). He married his nurse Elaine Mason in 1995; they divorced in 2006. Hawking is survived by three children from his first marriage.

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