Stephen Hawking dies at 76
Stephen Hawking dies at 76
The British physicist, cosmologist, and scientific popularizer Stephen Hawking died this Wednesday at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge (United Kingdom), according to his family.
This scientist’s theory of black holes changed the conception of the universe that was held until the 1970s.
For more than 50 years, Hawking suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, a disease that has forced him to be in a wheelchair and rely on a computerized voice system to communicate.
Stephen William Hawking was born just 300 years after Galileo’s death: on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, and died at his home in Cambridge on March 14, the day that mathematicians celebrate Pi Day (3,14). The family has confirmed his death in a statement.
Hawking’s parents’ home was in North London, but during World War II, Oxford has considered a safer place to have babies, so they decided to move there.
When he was eight years old, his family moved to St Albans, a town about 20 miles north of the British capital. At the age of eleven, Stephen went to school in this town and then to University College, one of the oldest colleges (where his
Hawking wanted to study mathematics, even though his father would have preferred medicine for him. The Mathematics degree was not taught at University College, and instead, he opted for Physics.
After three years and without much effort, he obtained his degree with honors in this scientific discipline.
He then went to Cambridge to do research in cosmology, as there was no one working in this area at Oxford at the time.
His supervisor was the British physicist Denis Sciama, considered one of the fathers of modern cosmology, although he hoped to find the British astronomer Fred Hoyle, who was working in Cambridge.
After obtaining his doctorate he became first a research fellow and later an associate professor at Gonville & Caius College, one of the oldest and largest colleges in Cambridge.
Hawking left the Institute of Astronomy in 1973 and years later, in 1979, he joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
He held the position of ‘Lucasian’ Professor of Mathematics from 1979 to 2009. This chair was founded in 1663 by the Reverend Henry Lucas – hence the name – and has been maintained by such prominent figures as Isaac Newton.
Following his retirement in 2009, Hawking remained an active part of the University of Cambridge, retaining an office in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at this prestigious academic center.
Here he continued to work on theoretical physics until his death this Wednesday at the age of 76, the same age at which Albert Einstein died, who coincidentally was also born on March 14.
Spacetime that is born with the Big Bang and not so black holes
Regarding his research, Stephen Hawking worked on the basic laws that govern the universe. Roger Penrose, showed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied that space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and that it could have an end in black holes.
These results indicated that it was necessary to unify general relativity with quantum theory, the other great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century.
Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, shortly after his 21st birthday.
One consequence of this unification that the eminent physicist discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but could emit radiation (the so-called Hawking radiation),
to finally evaporate and disappear. Another of his conjectures is that the universe has no edge or limit in time that we can imagine. This implies that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.