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A Brief History Of Hawking's Legacy

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Author: Krishnasri Gollakota

"Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion," said Stephen Hawking, one of the many passionate physics lovers we have had. His scientific legacy has awed a lot of people from various fields. His courage and persistence with his brilliance has inspired people across the world. A true icon, indeed!

Little to be introduced, Stephen William Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, born in Oxford into a family of doctors. Hawking began his university education at University College, Oxford in October 1959 at the age of 17, where he received a first-class BA (Hons.) degree in physics. He began his graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in October 1962, where he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in general relativity and cosmology in March 1966. During this period, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease that gradually paralyzed him over the decades but that could not stop him from communicating science to the world. His passion and love for physics spoke for him. He was popular not only in the scientific community, but also achieved commercial success with several works of popular science in which he discussed his theories and cosmology in general. His book "A Brief History of Time" appeared on the Sunday Times bestseller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

Scientific Legacy

His contributions to physics are endless. Some of his greatest scientific achievements include the Hawking radiation, which is a black-body radiation that is predicted to be released by black holes, due to quantum effects near the black hole's event horizon. Initially, Hawking radiation was a controversial subject in the physics community. By the late 1970s, the discovery was widely accepted as a significant breakthrough in theoretical physics. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. The Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems (named after Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking), a set of results in general relativity that attempt to answer the question of when gravitation produces singularities, marks a important breakthrough in physics. Hawking's other notable scientific achievements include the black hole information paradox, micro black holes, primordial black holes, chronology protection conjecture, soft hair (no hair theorem), Hawking energy, Hawking-Page phase transition, Gibbons–Hawking ansatz, Gibbons–Hawking effect, Gibbons–Hawking space, Gibbons–Hawking–York boundary term and many more.

One of his most important contributions to physics is the Bekenstein–Hawking formula which also is the equation which Hawking instructed to be written on his grave.

He never received a Nobel, but has received many prestigious awards including Adams Prize (1966), Eddington Medal (1975), Maxwell Medal and Prize (1976), Heineman Prize (1976), Hughes Medal (1976), Albert Einstein Award (1978), Albert Einstein Medal (1979), RAS Gold Medal (1985), Dirac Medal (1987), Wolf Prize (1988), Albert Medal (1999) and the list goes on.

Remembering this great scientist on his 79th birthday.


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