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Stephen Williams Hawking

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Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942. He studied physics at Oxford University, then completed his Ph.D at Cambridge University in the field of theoretical physics. In 1979 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton. The British theoretical physicist is a leading figure in modern cosmology. While studying physics and mathematics at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Hawking learned that he had the degenerative disorder of the nervous system known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Obtaining his doctorate in 1966, he set out to link quantum mechanics and relativity, the two major theories of modern physics, by developing a quantum theory of gravity. Hawking's ongoing work indicates that quantum theory supports the model of the universe known as inflationary theory. His speculations include the existence of black holes no larger than elementary particles, and multiple universes linked by tiny quantum fluctuations in space that he calls "wormholes." In 1988, Hawking published a nontechnical explanation of his work called "A Brief History of Time". Hawking startled the worlds of mathematics and physics in 1974 with his discovery that black holes emit radiation. This fact was contrary to all the prevailing theories at the time, including Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. In 1983 he published, along with Dr.James Hartle, the "no boundary theory" of the universe, another radical departure from conventional thought. The theory proposes that the universe is infinite, having no beginning or end, either physically or in time. But perhaps even more noteworthy than his long list of accomplishments is the fact that Stephen Hawking has done these things while severely disabled. He suffers from the progressive neurological disease ALS, or amytropic lateral sclerosis. Hawking as been confined to a wheelchair for almost two decades, able to move only a few fingers. He communicates with the aid of a computer and a voice synthesizer. In a 1996 interview Dr. Hawking noted, "My body may be confined to this chair. But with the Internet my mind can go to the ends of the earth."

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