With the recent passing of the one or the most important figures in the scientific world, we remember Stephen Hawking as a man who not only challenged the minds of our society but made a monumental influence on the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
Few people emerge from the fields of cosmology and theoretical physics with the sort of name recognition equal to that of Stephen Hawking. Thanks to his innovative work with black holes and relativity, he went on to hold distinguished academic posts, be appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and earn the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom – all while his body struggled from a crippling disease that many believed would have taken his life by the mid-1960s. Hawking’s scientific works included a collaboration 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. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
– Stephen Hawking
Hawking was convinced he could write a book about the mysteries of the universe that everyone would be able to understand. When he lost the ability to write and speak the task proved harder, but he used his speech synthesizer with help from students who relayed his draft changes to his US editor by phone. First published in 1988, A Brief History of Time, Hawking writes in non-technical terms about the structure, origin, development and eventual fate of the universe, which is the object of study of astronomy and modern physics. He talks about basic concepts like space and time, basic building blocks that make up the universe and the fundamental forces that govern it, such as gravity. He writes about cosmological phenomena such as the Big Bang and black holes. He discusses two major theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, that modern scientists use to describe the universe. Finally, he talks about the search for a unifying theory that describes everything in the universe in a coherent manner.
The book became a bestseller and sold more than 10 million copies in 20 years. It was also on the London Sunday Times bestseller list for more than five years and was translated into 35 languages by 2001.
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
– Stephen Hawking