Hawking, Stephen William


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Hawking, Stephen William,

1942–, British theoretical physicist, b. Oxford, England, grad. University College, Oxford, 1962, Ph.D. Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1966. In 1962 Hawking was diagnosed as having an incurable muscular disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosisamyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS) or motor neuron disease,
sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, degenerative disease that affects motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, preventing them from sending impulses to the muscles.
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 (ALS). Although the disease eventually confined him to a wheelchair and forced him to use a computer-generated voice synthesizer to communicate, he continued to teach and to lecture at Cambridge, where he was Lucasian professor of mathematics (1979–2009), and began his research in cosmologycosmology,
area of science that aims at a comprehensive theory of the structure and evolution of the entire physical universe. Modern Cosmological Theories
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. In 1971 Hawking provided mathematical support for the big-bang theory of the origin of the universe; he showed that if the general theory of relativityrelativity,
physical theory, introduced by Albert Einstein, that discards the concept of absolute motion and instead treats only relative motion between two systems or frames of reference.
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 was correct the universe must have a singularity, or starting point, in space-time.

This cosmological thread led him to the study of black holesblack hole,
in astronomy, celestial object of such extremely intense gravity that it attracts everything near it and in some instances prevents everything, including light, from escaping.
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 and his suggestion that following the big bang primordial, or mini, black holes—objects of immense mass occupying only the space of an elementary particleelementary particles,
the most basic physical constituents of the universe. Basic Constituents of Matter

Molecules are built up from the atom, which is the basic unit of any chemical element. The atom in turn is made from the proton, neutron, and electron.
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—were formed. He also showed that the surface area of a black hole can increase but never decrease, that there is a limit on the radiation emitted when black holes collide, and that a single black hole cannot cleave into two black holes. In 1974 Hawking calculated that black holes thermally create and emit subatomic particles until they exhaust their energy and explode. This so-called Hawking radiation linked gravity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics mathematically for the first time. Hawking proposed in 1981 that although the universe has no boundary, it is finite in space-time; he collaborated with James Hartle to formulate this mathematically in 1983.

Hawking wrote an explanation of his work that became a popular best seller, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988). He has also published Superspace and Supergravity (1981), The Very Early Universe (1983), Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993), The Nature of Space and Time (1995), and The Grand Design (with L. Mlodinow, 2010).

Bibliography

See M. White, Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science (1992); D. Wilkenson, God, the Big Bang, and Stephen Hawking (1993); M. McDaniel, Stephen Hawking: Revolutionary Physicist (1994); K. Ferguson, Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind (2012).

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