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Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was raised outside London in very intelligent family. His father was a physician and specialist in tropical diseases; his mother was active in the Liberal Party. In school he was very hard to manage child, but knew early in his life that he wanted to study science. He became remarkably skilled in mathematics and in 1958 when he was only six-teen; he and some colleges built a computer that actually worked.

In 1959 he received a scholarship to Oxford University, where his intellectual capabilities became more evident. In 1962 he got his degree and went to Cambridge University to pursue a PhD in cosmology. At Cambridge he became extremely intrigued with black holes. After receiving his PhD, he stayed at Cambridge, becoming very well known for his revolutionary ideas and use of Einstein's formulas, as well as his questioning of older, conventional physicists.

When he was twenty-six he joined the staff, of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge and began to apply the laws of thermodynamics to black holes using extremely complicated mathematics. He published the very technical book, Large Scale Structure of Space-Time but soon after doing so made a startling discovery that would change people’s perception of black holes forever. It had always been thought that nothing could escape a black hole; but he suggested that under certain conditions, a black hole could emit subatomic particles. That is now known as Hawking Radiation.

He continued working on the theory of the origin of the universe, and in doing so found ways to link relativity (gravity) with quantum mechanics (the inner workings of atoms). This greatly contributed to what physicists call the Grand Unified Theory, a way of explaining, in a single equation, all physical matter in the universe. At the remarkably young age of 32, he was named a fellow of the Royal Society. And in 1979, he was chosen Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the same place where another very famous scientist, Sir Isaac Newton taught 300 years earlier.

There he began to question the big bang theory, which by then most cosmologists had accepted. He suggested, there was never a start and would be no end of the universe but merely it would change. At the same time he was digging into exploding black holes, string theory, and the birth of black holes in our own galaxy. Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 21. He gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and is now almost completely paralyzed. He has since used an electronic synthesiser to communicate. This is a recent picture of Stephen Hawking at a press conference.

I believe this man is great because in his life he has questioned great scientists that provided theories that guide cosmology today. He has followed in the footsteps of Sir Isaac Newton. He has been sickened by a horrible disease, and still managed to remain a hard working scientist. He has changed history by proposing that black holes can release subatomic particles. And he has changed our knowledge of the universe, forever. I now end with a Stephen Hawking quote:

"My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists, at all."