Stephen Hawking, the splendid British physicist who conquered a weakening ailment to distribute widely prevalent books examining the mysteries of the universe, has passed away. During the early hours of Wednesday dies at 76, the day coinciding with the birthday of another legend of science, Albert Einstein., the world lost one of the brightest stars in the firmament of science, leaving behind an irreplaceable vacuum in the field of cosmology and in the lives of those touched by his inspirational words.
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Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford on 8 January 1942. His father, a research biologist, had moved with his mother from London to escape German bombing. Hawking grew up in London and St Albans and, after gaining a first-class degree in physics from Oxford, went on to Cambridge for postgraduate research in cosmology. As a teenager he had enjoyed horse-riding and rowing but while at Cambridge he was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease which was to leave him almost completely paralysed. As he was preparing to marry his first wife Jane Wilde, in 1964 his doctors gave him no more than two or three years of life. But the disease progressed more slowly than expected. The couple had three children, and in 1988 Professor Hawking was married twice. He was later married to Elaine Mason one of his former nurses for 11 years- although Hawking was by now only able to speak with a voice synthesiser following a tracheotomy – he had completed A Brief History of Time – a layman’s guide to cosmology.Hawking’s first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penroseapplied the mathematics of black holes to the universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang. In 1974 Hawking drew on quantum theory to declare that black holes should emit heat and eventually pop out of existence. For normal-sized black holes, the process is extremely slow, but miniature black holes would release heat at a spectacular rate, eventually exploding with the energy of a million one-megaton hydrogen bombs. Hawking’s seminal contributions continued through the 1980s. The theory of cosmic inflation holds that the fledgling universe went through a period of terrific expansion. In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations – tiny variations in the distribution of matter – might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe. In these tiny ripples lay the seeds of stars, planets and life as we know it. “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at,” Stephen Hawking had once said.
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