There are few names that are as well known in the world of physics, or science in general for that matter, as Stephen Hawking. He has achieved much in his 70 years including a record breaking stint in the British bestseller list, numerous awards and honours, and holding the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years. He has even been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest US honour that can be bestowed on a civilian.
During Stephen Hawking’s early educational time he was described as being a good student but not one that really excelled. Even during his degree and the first two years of his PhD he had yet to really assert himself on the world of Physics. However, this changed once his motor neurone disease had stabilised and with the help of Dennis William Sciama, his doctoral tutor.
He was one of the youngest Fellows ever to be elected at the Royal Society in 1974 and, in the same year he also accepted the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar visiting professorship at Caltech. It was at the end of this decade, the 1970s, when Hawking’s fame and success really began to hit hard though.
By the late 1970s he was regularly appearing on TV documentaries and this culminated in 1979 with his being awarded the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Sir Isaac Newton held this same post. Hawking relinquished the post when he retired in 2009 following 30 years of service within the post. By the end of the 1970s he had been awarded the Eddington Medal, Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, and the Albert Einstein Medal. These were to be followed with more than 10 further awards and honours.
Hawking is a popular writer, especially on his theories of relativity. His book A Brief History of Time spent 237 weeks in the Sunday Times best seller’s list making it a record breaking piece of work. Black Holes and Baby Universes, The Universe in a Nutshell, and On the Shoulders of Giants are among his other popular work. He has also co-written three children’s books with his daughter Lucy.