Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous and brilliant theoretical physicists alive today – arguably in the same league as Albert Einstein and other great geniuses in history. One of Stephen Hawking’s most notable achievements is being the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post so prestigious that very few people in history have had the privilege of holding it.
Stephen Hawking has had numerous notable awards, with some of the latest ones including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), the Fundamental Physics Prize (2012) and BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015). Some people claim that the only other significant prize we can expect Stephen Hawking to get is a Nobel Prize.
One of the things that cause Stephen Hawking to stand out from the crowd is the condition that he suffers from, which is called motor neurone disease (MND), otherwise known as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Hawking was diagnosed with this disease in 1963 and, although it has taken away his ability to control almost every part of his body, he has lived much longer than any doctor at the time would have anticipated.
The fact that Stephen Hawking has achieved so much despite the challenges he faces makes him a truly exceptional individual. Hawking is a great example of just how powerful the human mind and spirit is.
This is a list of 15 things that you might not know about Stephen Hawking. Reading them will reveal just how outstanding he is and how any one of us has a shot at becoming great, regardless of our situation.
15. His Birthday Falls On A Very Interesting Date
Stephen Hawking was born on Thursday 8 January 1942, a day that to the regular folk is nothing to write home about but it has a very interesting history. One of the most significant things about Hawking’s birthday is that it is exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest astronomers, physicists, mathematicians, and engineer in history. Since Hawking’s contributions to applied mathematics, theoretical physics, and astronomy are outstanding in every way, it seems as if 8 January marked the end of one great man and the birth of another. However, Hawking and Galileo do not have any other relationship. Furthermore, 8 January is still special because among other things, it happens to be Elvis Presley’s birthday, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un’s birthday, and the day, in 1902, when it became illegal to flirt in public in New York. Yes, it is illegal to flirt in New York in Public.
14. He Has A Humble Background
Today, Stephen Hawking is worth approximately $20 million, meaning that he is one of the wealthy people in society. However, as is the story with most self-made millionaires, Hawking grew up in a poor family in today’s standards and made it to be the great man he is today. Since Hawking was born in Oxford, England at the height of the Second World War, it was hard, not only for his parents but for most people to make money because of the war, though they were both very educated. When Hawking was about eight years old, the family relocated from Oxford to St. Albans to live in a fixer-upper house that hardly ever got fixed while they were living there. Furthermore, Hawking can now afford any car in the market that he would fancy today; but when he was growing up, they had an old London taxi for a family car.
13. He Attended A Girls School When He Was Young
Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for a boy to attend a girl’s school even for a week? However, some teenage boys would love such a rare opportunity, given the fact that they would probably get a shot at going out with any girl they want at school because there would be little to no competition. Hawking was one out of a number of boys who got the opportunity to learn in a girl’s school for a short period, a practice that was acceptable at the time for young boys. For a few months, Hawking attended St. Albans High School for Girls, one of the reasons for this being that the family did not have that much money to send him to a mixed boys and girls school, which was a bit further. Since this was a normal practice at the time, the period in a girl’s school hardly had a negative effect on him.
12. Surprisingly, He Was Not A Bright Student Earlier On
Knowing what we know about Stephen Hawking today, we would expect that he was a straight-A student since the first day he stepped into a classroom. In reality, Hawking was anything but a straight-A student since he used to receive average to less than average grades in school. Hawking did not know how to read until he was eight years old, which would be a really big deal today, he had a terrible handwriting, and he confesses to being untidy and lazy early on in school. Surprisingly, his fellow students and teachers nicknamed Hawking “Einstein”, perhaps to mock him or because they saw something in him that he had not yet discovered about himself. Hawking was not poor in class because he was slow or stupid; it seems as if he did not pay much attention to what was going on because when he started paying attention, he became an exceptional student.
11. Hawking Had Almost Perfect Scores In Physics
Stephen Hawking getting almost perfect scores in Physics is one of the only points in this list that anyone could have guessed and got it right even without having this information. Despite having a background of average class performance, Hawking started to develop an interest in the sciences and by the time he was finishing high school he had become an exceptional student. Since he wanted to join Oxford University, he could only do so through a scholarship because his parents could not afford to pay the fees there. Hawking sat for the entrance exam and passed with amazing grades, getting an almost perfect score in Physics. In line with just how good he had become, he confesses that the first two years of study at Oxford were some of the most boring years he had because he found everything he was learning to be ridiculously easy.
10. He Was Part Of The Oxford Rowing Team
Most people who do not know Stephen Hawking well would think that he was born paralyzed from the neck down, which is far from the truth. You will be surprised to learn that Hawking was very active in his early years and hardly faced any physical challenges until his early 20s when he was diagnosed with the condition that he presently suffers from. At Oxford, Hawking was part of the Oxford rowing team, he loved to go out dancing with his friends, he enjoyed classical music, and did everything he could to get over his boredom in school. Since Hawking could get amazing grades without studying much, he would spend time socializing and ended up becoming a very popular student. Hawking was so social that he met and started dating his wife to be during these years in college, a woman who became and continues to be a pillar of support for him in every way.
9. He Was Not Supposed To See His 24th Birthday
Do you remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge” where people were pouring ice-cold water on themselves and nominating other people to do the same within 24 hours? People from all over the world took this challenge to raise funds and spread awareness about a disease called ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or motor neurone disease. ALS causes the gradual death of the neurons that control an individual’s voluntary muscles, making such an individual to face difficulty in everything including speaking, swallowing, and even breathing. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21 years old in 1963, and doctors gave him just two years to live. The amazing thing is that Stephen Hawking is now 74 years old, surpassing the doctor’s expectations of how long he would live by well over 50 years. Over the years Hawking has lost the control of almost every part of his body and he can only communicate through a computerized system using cheek movements
8. The Story Behind His Voice Is Very Interesting
As the ALS continued to take its toll on Stephen Hawking’s body, his speech began to deteriorate to the point that only close friends and family members could hear what he was saying and translate to others. In 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia while visiting the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, a condition that would have cost him his life owing to ALS. Hawking was so sick at the time that doctors were advising his wife to get him out of life support because it seemed as if he would not survive, but she refused. A tracheotomy was one of the consequences of the condition, which led to Hawking losing his speech completely and requiring round-the-clock nursing care. Having no speech, Hawking had to raise his eyebrows at letters to come up with words and communicate. He now uses the “Equalizer”, computerized word processing software that allows him to choose letters, words, or phrases from almost 3000 words and combinations.
7. He Is Not Good At Betting
Some people make a lot of money from betting and winning their bets, while the bigger population loses so much more than they are prepared to lose because of betting. Although Stephen Hawking does not frequent casinos or bet on which teams are likely to win a championship, he made a bet back in 1997 that he lost. Since Hawking is a science guru and what he says is gospel truth to most in the science community, he made a bet about black holes that only a small fraction of the world are in a position to understand what the bet was really about. Apparently, Hawking was wrong in thinking that the information and mass-energy he referred to as “Hawking radiation” was new and did not originate from the black hole event horizon, what do you think? After much study and research, Hawking came out and said that he was wrong, and paid the price of losing this bet.
6. Hawking Held A Post That Isaac Newton Once Held
Most people rightly refer to Sir Isaac Newton as the father of physics and the most influential scientist of all time, owing to the great contributions he made in the field. It is still amazing how Newton and others like him were able to advance fields of study with such limited technology and resources. One of the posts that Sir Isaac Newton held was that of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, the second individual to hold this post at the University of Cambridge. Stephen Hawking was also Cambridge University’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a post that he stepped down at age 67, apparently a tradition of all the holders of the post to step down at that age. This post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics is a really big deal and the people who hold it are usually very exceptional people. Since it seems as if Stephen Hawking would belong in the same club as Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Einstein, he sure is a special man in this generation.
5. Pope John Paul II Was Not A Fan Of His Work
Unlike Sir Isaac Newton who was a man of faith and deeply studied theology and believed in God, Hawking is not a man of faith and is a proponent of the big bang theory, which is contrary to religious belief. At a cosmology conference at the Vatican, Hawking met Pope John Paul II and had a brief chat with him, where the pope shared his sentiments concerning how he did not approve of Hawking’s work on the beginning of the Universe. The pope had no problem with the study of the universe, he was only uncomfortable in people asking questions about the beginning itself. If it were 300 years back, Hawking would have probably been treated like Galileo, which would not have turned out too well for him. However, Pope John Paul II had declared that Galileo’s denunciation by the church of his time was an error resulting from mutual incomprehension.
4. TV Loves Stephen Hawking
How many theoretical physicists do you know? And No, Sheldon Cooper is not a real theoretical physicist he is a really good actor. It is hard to know some of the present-day academic giants unless you happen to be a student in their fields or in institutions where they teach. Stephen Hawking is different from most other scholars because apart from being famous in learning institutions, he is a celebrity because he appears frequently on TV shows and in movies. Hawking has not only appeared on Science related shows such as the video version of A Brief History Of Time or in his biographical films, he has been on very popular shows that have nothing to do with science. Hawking has made appearances on several occasions on shows such as The Simpsons, Star Trek, and The Big Bang Theory. Hawking has also been on advertisements such as for Go Compare, National Savings, Egg Banking, and British Telecom.
3. He Supports Assisted Suicide
The issue on whether terminally ill patients should make the decision whether to continue living or to die is a thorny one. On one side, people consider assisted suicide to be immoral and a crime punishable by law, while on the other side some people consider letting people suffer without cure to be immoral. Stephen Hawking, unlike most of the people who reject the assisted suicide proposal, has lived through many years of losing control of his body to a disease and has confessed to wanting to commit suicide in at least one occasion. The choice of life and death should not be one that any individual should have to make, although in complicated circumstances a complicated answer would be the only way out. Hawking has achieved so much in his lifetime, and he ought to be an encouragement to everyone who lacks any reason to keep on living.
2. He Has Been Married Twice
Stephen Hawking’s first marriage was to his college sweetheart Jane Hawking in 1965, a woman he met through his sister. The two fell in love and decided to get married; a short period after doctors telling him that he had less than two years to live. According to Hawking, Jane gave him a reason to live, and the two had a long marriage in which they got three children. Owing to Hawking’s condition and the lack of privacy in their lives, the relationship between the two strained to the extent that Jane developed romantic feelings for another man. The marriage between the two ended in divorce in 1995, and the two moved on and married other people. Hawking’s second marriage was to Elaine Mason in 1995, a woman who was part of a team that made sure he received the round-the-clock care that he needed to survive. The marriage ended awkwardly in 2006 and Hawking never likes talking about it.
1. He Believes In The Possibility Of Aliens
If you came across someone who says that he believes that aliens exist and that the government is hiding information about aliens from us in Area 51, what would you think of such an individual? Would you think that that person is insane or would you just conclude that he has been watching too many science fiction movies? However, as much as the greater population considers that aliens are just a myth, Hawking believes in the possibility of an advanced alien race living somewhere in the Universe. Hawking also expresses fears that one day an advanced alien race will come to earth and possibly wipe out the human race. Furthermore, judging from the approximate size of the known universe, chances are high that alien life does exist, whether more advanced than human beings are or otherwise, since the earth is not even the size of a drop in the ocean when you compare it to the universe.