ALS Awareness Month Profile: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, author, and professor. At the time of his death, Hawking was the director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. 

Hawking is best known for his work with theoretical physics and cosmology.  His book A Brief History of Time broke records on the British Sunday Times best-seller list, topping the charts for 237 straight weeks. Additionally, Hawking collaborated with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation.

Of his work, Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a merging of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.  He was an avid supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Stephen Hawking was honored with several awards for his work. He was fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In 2002, he was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Stephen Hawking had a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of ALS, which gradually paralyzed him and resulted in the loss of his speech. Hawking used a speech-generating device to communicate after losing his speech, which was first operated by a hand-held device, and later by a single twitch in his cheek muscle. Hawking passed away on March 18, 2018 at the age of 76.