Stephen Hawking is a noted cosmic researcher, physicist, lecturer and an inspiration to millions. After earning his bachelor’s degree in math and physics at the esteemed Oxford University, he earned his master’s and Ph.D. at the prestigious Cambridge University. He received the honor of being awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1982, by Queen Elizabeth the II in person. President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Hawking was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, named Companion of Honor in 1989, member of the U.S. National Academy of Science and received the Copley medal in 2006 for research in theoretical physics and cosmology.
He worked as a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Currently, he serves as the Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Center for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge. Hawking proved the existence of black holes, redefined the Big Bang Theory and proved general relativity. He has written several books and appeared in over 40 television programs.
Hawking wed Jane Wilde in 1965 and fathered three children. The marriage ended after 26 years due to an affair with his caregiver, Elaine Mason in 1990. He married Mason in 1995, but the couple split in 2006.
As a child, Hawking spoke with a lisp and was often teased by other children. He created complicated board games and enjoyed riding his bike in the countryside. His social acceptance improved some at Oxford as he joined the rowing team. Stephen suffered from bouts of depression at Oxford. He also became very clumsy and developed a slurred speech pattern. He was hospitalized for testing in 1963 and diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Although the brain is not affected, the body deteriorates and nerve cells are damaged.
Many of his accomplishments were earned after he began using a wheelchair. During the 1980s, Hawking developed pneumonia and was near death until a surgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge performed a tracheotomy, leaving him unable to speak. A computer expert, Walt Woltosz, sent Hawking a program that allowed him to communicate. He proved that barriers may be overcome with perseverance.
(Photo is courtesy of Stephen Hawking NASA 50th as downloaded by NASA HQ Photo from Flickr’s Creative Commons.)