One of the greatest minds of this era, Stephan Hawking died on 14 March 2018. And look at the coincidence, it is the very same date when Albert Einstein was born almost 140 years ago. He inspired the next generation of researchers.
For many Hawking was not just a scientist who revolutionized the human understanding of cosmology, but an inspiration who motivated people to achieve things they want irrespective of their physical ability.
Today, we are presenting some less known and interesting facts about Stephan Hawking that might inspire you to fight and overcome all difficult phases of your life.
Table of Contents
15. He Received Mediocre Grades in School
Hawking’s NASA StarChild Image
You may know that Hawking was known as “Einstein” at school. Well, it’s not a surprise, but do you know that he was not so academically inclined during his school years. However, with the passage of time, he started to show interest in subjects such as physics and mathematics.
He was largely influenced by famous mathematician Dick Tahta. He later blamed progressive methods used in one of his schools for his lack of learning at that time.
14. His Father Wanted him To Pursue Medicine
His father, Frank Hawking was a medical researcher and wanted his son Stephen to pursue medicine as he believed there were few job opportunities for a mathematics graduate at that time. He also wanted him to attend Oxford, his own Alma matter. It was due to this demand, Stephen Hawking opted to study physics and chemistry, since mathematics was not taught at the university around that time.
13. Was on Oxford Rowing Team
Oxford University’s Rowing Team in 2005
Though Hawking began his graduate years feeling lonely and bored, it all changed near the end of his three year term. He quickly gained popularity as a boy interested in classical music and science fiction. He also joined college boat club as a coxswain, a member of rowing team who is responsible for steering the boat and perform coordination duties. Being on the rowing team helped him grow his popularity, however, negatively affected his studies.
12. Was Given a Few Years to Live
An ALS patient uses a head mounted laser pointer to communicate
He was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) at the age of 21. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s, it’s an extremely rare neurological disease that causes progressive muscle weakness. He started experiencing clumsiness and other sort of muscular difficulties during the final year at Oxford.
His condition worsened with the passage of time and soon he started having problems with his speech. When doctors found out about his disease in 1963, they predicted that he will live for another two years.
There is no doubt that he will always be a role model for disabled people. From 1990s, he participated in different initiatives concerning disabled people, including fundraising activities. In 2000, he was part of the Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability, concerning the rights of people who are disabled.
For his efforts, Hawking was awarded Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize in 1999 from the American Physical Society.
10. He Used Different Gadgets To Communicate
By the late 1970s, his speech deteriorated to a level that only close family members could understand him. He soon needed technical aid to communicate. During the early stages, Hawking used to converse using only his eyebrows. But by 1986, he used a technique known as switch access scanning to communicate.
In 1997, Intel sponsored his advanced computer based communication system comprised of a tablet mounted on one arm of his wheelchair and an infrared system mounted on his glass to identify movements of his cheek muscles.
9. He Always Wanted To Go to Space
Image Courtesy: NASA
Remember this buoyant image of Stephen Hawking. Well, this is not in space. In 2006, during an interview with BBC, Hawking revealed one of his greatest desires was to travel to space. On hearing this, billionaire and owner of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson offered Hawking an exclusive, free flight to space with Virgin Galactic.
To test how his body may react in the space, he aboard a specialized aircraft operated by the Zero-G Corp on 26 April 2007 to experience weightlessness. After successful completion of the test flight, Hawking’s trip to space was planned to commence by 2009, however, commercial flight to space did not take off before his death.
8. He Told the World that “Philosophy is Dead”
In 2011, while addressing Google’s annual Zeitgeist Conference, Hawking said the “Philosophy is Dead.” He said that the fundamental questions about the nature could not be solved without hard evidences from observatories. Where do we come from? Why we are here? These were philosophical questions, but not anymore.
“Philosophers have not kept up with the modern development in science” but on the other hand, “scientists have become the carriers of the torch of discovery in humanity’s quest for knowledge”. The new scientific theories have lead us to a new picture of the universe, he added.
7. Thorne-Hawking-Preskill Bet
Black hole accretion disk Image Courtesy: NASA
In 1997, Hawking along with Nobel laureate Kip Throne placed a wager with theoretical physicist John Preskill on the outcome of Black Hole Information Paradox. The winning party would be entitled to receive an encyclopedia of their own choice. In 2004, Hawking admitted that he now believes that black hole horizons should leak information. He then gave Preskill a copy of ‘Total Baseball’, The Ultimate Baseball Encyclopedia.
6. He Lost his $100 Following the Discovery of Higgs Boson
Hawking was part of another major scientific dispute, where he bet against the discovery of Higgs Boson. He argued that such particle would never be found and he was however not alone in this. The existence of such particle was first suggested by Peter Higgs in 1960s.
In 2002 and then again in 2008, Hawking and Peter Higgs locked in a much heated public debate, where Higgs accused Hawking that his “status gives him instant credibility unlike the others”. When the particle was discovered by the scientists at CERN back in 2012, Hawking was quick to admit that he had lost his bet, and said that Higgs should win a Nobel Prize.
5. He Received Numerous Awards and Honors
Hawking and Attenborough (on the right) receiving the Bodley Medal Image Courtesy: The Bodleian Libraries
Stephen Hawking received his first award in 1966 following his groundbreaking paper on “Singularities and the Geometry of Space-Time”. Almost a decade later, in 1975 he awarded with the Eddington Medal and Pius XI Gold Medal then two more prestigious awards the next year.
From 1976 to 2015, he won about 20 different awards and medals, including Wolf Prize in 1988 and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2012 for his contribution in the field of science.
4. He Wrote Many Books on Children’s Fiction
This might be one of the most unexpected. From 2007 to 2016, he along with his daughter, journalist and novelist, Lucy Hawking, wrote five different books on child fiction. Of course the books are meant to explain concepts such as atoms, moon, planets and black holes.
3. Views on the Future of Humanity
Back in 2006, Hawking posted an open question on the internet, asking “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?” After appearing on the website, a storm of replies came flooding through. He later clarified that he didn’t know the answer and that’s why he asked the question.
For years he has expressed concern that life we known on Earth is at risk from highly advanced virus, global warming, nuclear war or any other dangerous things that we have not discovered yet. Such a catastrophe, however, may not result in human extension if the human race were able to colonize other planets soon.
2. Perspective on Artificial Intelligence
According to Stephen Hawking, artificial intelligence could play an essential role in deciding the fate of humanity on Earth, and creating super-intelligent AI would be the biggest event in the history of humanity. However, it might also be the very last, if we don’t learn to avoid the dangers that comes with it.
He believed that computer viruses should be treated as a new form of life. Hawking argued that “it says an important thing about the human nature, the only other life form we have created is so far is purely destructive.”
1. He Believed in the Existence of Aliens
Image Courtesy: NASA
He believed that aliens are there in the universe. According to him, the vastness of the universe makes it possible for aliens to exist, however we should avoid to contact them. He warned that any superior, technically advanced life form might plunder and suck all the resources from the Earth. He compared such a situation with the discovery of America, when Columbus stumbled upon and it didn’t turn out well for native Americans.