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Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking!

Stephen Hawking Research Topic via ProQuest eLibra

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future,” Steve Miller wrote in his 1976 hit, “Fly Like an Eagle.” And so, time has once again quickly slipped into a new year.  Many long to forget 2016 with its spate of notable personality deaths.  Instead of lamenting the year past, let’s begin by wishing an early happy birthday to a man who became a “cultural icon” by writing about the beginning of time and the universe.

This coming Sunday marks the 75th birthday of the one of the most prominent scientists of our time, Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Hawking is well known for in scientific circles as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist which has led to a pop culture following outside that realm.  Dr. Hawking is a favorite scientist of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.  An intimate portrait of the man was made into a 2014 movie, The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne who won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Hawking.

Born January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England, Hawking knew from a very young age he wanted to study mathematics.  Unable to pursue a degree in mathematics at University College, his father’s alma mater, Stephen studied physics and gained first class honors at graduation. This led to graduate research in cosmology and a PhD in applied maths and theoretical physics at Cambridge.  It was during his studies, at age 22, he was diagnosed with a slow-progressing form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Despite his physical limitations, Dr. Hawking has not let his disease limit him professionally.  For thirty years, from 1979 to 2009, he served as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton.

In 1988 Hawking achieved worldwide acclaim with his bestselling book, A Brief History of Time.  He wrote the book to make topics in cosmology like the Big Bang and black holes more understandable and attainable.  Ever the research scientist, Professor Hawking continues to research and lecture on topics related to mathematics, cosmology and theoretical physics.  A current area of interest is the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe.