Professor Stephen Hawking on January 3, 1999.

Stephen William Hawking (January 8, 1942 - March 14, 2018) was a well known British scientist. He was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for thirty years until he retired in October 2009. He was also Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology in the Department of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge.

For most of his adult life, Hawking suffered from motor neurone disease. He gradually became paralyzed and lost the ability to speak. For the final thirty-two years of his life, Hawking was able to communicate by using a machine that produced a computer synthesized voice.

Hawking's best known work is his popular science book A Brief History of Time. He authored several other works of popular science for adults, wrote an autobiography that was published in 2013 and co-authored five children's science fiction novels with his daughter Lucy Hawking.

Personal life

Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 when he was 21 years-old. Doctors at the time told him that he had two or at most three years to live. That turned out not to be the case. Hawking lived on for more than fifty years, dying in 2018 at the age of 76. However, he gradually lost the use of his arms and legs and the ability to speak. Hawking became completely paralyzed by 2009.

Stephen Hawking 2013

Stephen Hawking in 2013.

By the late 1970s, Hawking's speech had deteriorated to the point that it could only be understood by his family and close friends. It was necessary for someone who knew Hawking well to "interpret" what he said when he spoke to others. While visiting Switzerland in 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia and a tracheotomy had to be performed on him. As a result of the operation, Hawking lost the ability to speak entirely. in 1986, Hawking began using a DECTalk DTC101 voice synthesizer, which produced an American accented voice, to speak. He continued to use it for the remainder of his life. For many years, Hawking continued to use a model of voice synthesizer that was no longer produced and was large and cumbersome. However, Hawking said that he came to identify with the voice that the machine produced and had never heard an artificial voice that he liked better. The voice synthesizer used predictive text. Initially, Hawking activated a switch for the voice synthesizer with his hand and could type 15 words a minute. By 2005, however, Hawking could no longer use his hand and had to activate the voice synthesizer by moving a muscle in his cheek. That made using the voice synthesizer a slow and laborious process. During a conference in May 2008, Hawking took seven minutes to respond to a question. Hawking's public speeches were always prepared in advance, consequently he seemed to speak fluently through the machine in his media appearances even in his final years.

Stephen Hawking married and divorced twice. In July 1965, Hawking married Jane Wilde. They had three children, Robert (born in 1967), Lucy (born in 1970) and Timothy (born in 1979). Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde divorced in June 1995. In September 1995, Hawking married his former nurse Elaine Mason. They divorced in October 2005.

Published works

Popular science works for adults

  • A Brief History of Time (1988)
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)
  • The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants - The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy (2002)
  • God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005)
  • The Dreams That Stuff is Made of: The Most Astounding papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World (2011)


  • The Nature of Space and Time (1996), co-authored with Roger Penrose
  • The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (1997), co-authored with Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony and Nancy Cartwright
  • The Future of Spacetime (2002), co-authored with Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov and timothy Ferris
  • A Briefer History of Time (2005), co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow
  • The Grand Design (2010), co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow


  • My Brief History (2013)

Children's fiction

  • George's Secret Key to the Universe (2007), co-authored with Lucy Hawking
  • George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009), co-authored with Lucy Hawking
  • George and the Big Bang (2011), co-authored with Lucy Hawking
  • George and the Unbreakable Code (2014), co-authored with Lucy Hawking
  • George and the Blue Moon (2016), co-authored with Lucy Hawking

External links