The world lost a great physics mind in Professor Stephen Hawking, known for his ideas about black holes and quantum gravity on 14th March, 2018 at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.
In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a rare form of Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 2, that later left him confined to his wheelchair. However, with the use of technology, he was able to communicate without much difficulty. In spite of being wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerized voice system for communication, Stephen continued to combine family life (he has three children and three grandchildren) with his research into theoretical physics, in addition to an extensive programme of travel and public lectures. Thanks to the Zero-G Corporation, he experienced weightlessness in 2007 and always wanted to make it into space one day.
His life has been inspirational not only for generations of physicists but also for people in general. For more than five decades, he continued with his research into theoretical physics, apart from travel and public lectures. Stephen Hawking another breakthrough was when he proposed that when two black holes collide, the area of the event horizon always increases that would increase the gravitational pull exerted by the black holes. He found it analogous to the second law of thermodynamics. Although this theory dates back to 1960s and 1970s, it was only possible to observe it in February 2016, when experiments on disturbances in the fabric of space-time were recorded due to accelerated masses.
Professor Stephen Hawking also received thirteen honorary degrees. He was awarded CBE (1982), Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He was the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes, most notably the Fundamental Physics prize (2013), Copley Medal (2006) and the Wolf Foundation prize (1988). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Stephen Hawking worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose (Mathematician and philosopher of science) he showed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes (1970). These results showed that it was necessary to unify general relativity with quantum theory, the other great scientific development of the first half of the 20th century. One outcome of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit ‘Hawking’ radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear (1974). Another assumption is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This implies that the way the universe began was out and out determined by the laws of science. Towards the end of his life, Stephen was working with colleagues on a possible resolution to the black hole information paradox, where debate centers around the conservation of information.
Professor Hawking earned more than dozen honorary degrees in his lifetime and had authored best-sellers like ‘Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays’, ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’, ‘The Grand Design and My Brief History’ and above all ‘A Brief History of Time’ that appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.
On 31st March, thousands of mourners lined the streets to pay tribute to renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who died peacefully at his home on March 14. A spontaneous round of applause broke out as six porters from the physicist’s former college carried his coffin from the hearse into the church. The bell tolled 76 times for Stephen Hawking, one for every year of his life.