Stephen Hawking

On this date in 1942, cosmologist Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England, "300 years after the death of Galileo," as he points out at his Web site. He attended Oxford, studying physics, then earned his Ph.D. in cosmology at Cambridge. By his 21st birthday, he had been diagnosed as having ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), or motor neurone disease. Despite his disability, confining him to a wheelchair and forcing him to rely on mechanized speech, Hawking became a research fellow, worked at the Institute of Astronomy, and in 1973 joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He became Lucasian professor of math in 1979. Hawking is celebrated for his work on unifying General Relativity with Quantum Theory. His 3 popular science books are: A Brief History of Time, Black Holes & Baby Universes & other Essays, and The Universe in a Nutshell. Although some rationalists have been disappointed in his tendency to use the term "god" too loosely as a metaphor, Hawking has made it clear he does not believe in a personal god. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News (June 7, 2010), Hawking said: "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."

“All that my work has shown is that you don't have to say that the way the universe began was the personal whim of God.”

—Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo by David Fowler /

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