At first site, Stephen Hawking may not look as if he is capable of much. This is because his 57 year old body is strapped into a wheelchair and he speaks through a voice synthesized computer. In his case, appearance can be extremely misleading. By persevering over his handicap, Stephen Hawking has become a very famous modern day scientist and mathematician. Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. His parents were originally from London, but opted to have him in Oxford because it was safer during World War II. At the age of eight, Hawking+s family moved to St. Albans, a town 20 miles north of London. When he was 11, he attended the St. Albans school. It was at this age that he started to notice that he was not physically coordinated, and had very poor handwriting. However, he had no idea that this would lead to some type of rare disease. After coasting through grade school, Hawking attended the University of Oxford, his father+s old college. He wanted to study mathematics, while his father would have preferred medicine. Because mathematics was not available at Oxford, Hawking chose Physics. Three years later he was awarded a first class honors degree in Natural Sciences. During his final year at Oxford, Hawking says he began to notice himself becoming more and more clumsy. He even fell over a few times. Following college, Stephen Hawking discovered a new interest: Cosmology. Cosmology is the study of the large scale structure, composition, and evolution of the universe. In order to research this, he went on to graduate school at Cambridge University. This is where Hawking+s father noticed his problem becoming progressively worse. He was sent to the hospital, where many tests were run on him. He was then informed that he had an incurable disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig+s disease. Hawking did not let this disease slow him down one bit. Recently after being diagnosed, he became engaged and married to Jane Wilde. After receiving his Ph. D., Stephen Hawking once again focused on Cosmology. He wanted to unify all elements of Physics into one single theory, known as the |theory of everythingX. According to most scientists, once this theory is reached, man will know the origin of the universe. The Big Bang theory says that some kind of initial singularity began to expand in all directions in the form of a hot gas as it created space. As the gas expanded, it cooled and allowed matter to form into structures like stars and galaxies. The major problem is that scientists don+t know what caused the |initial singularityX in the first place.
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At the present time, no theories provide the answer. Even Einstein+s general theory of relativity cannot deal with the start of the universe. This is where Stephen Hawking comes in. He and a group of physicists have been searching for a theory of quantum gravity, which will solve this problem, and find the origin of the universe. Hawking predicts that there is a 50/50 chance that the |theory of everythingX will be discovered in the next 20 years. He wrote a book about this, entitled A Brief History of Time, which has been translated into 33 languages and sold over a million copies. Presently, Stephen Hawking holds the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, formerly held by Sir Isaac Newton. He has 12 honorary degrees, was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honor in 1989. He is the recipient of many awards, medals, and prizes and is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. All of these things he managed to accomplish while raising a family and dealing with a major disability. Stephen Hawking managed to persevere through times at which he did not think he would live another day. He has done an enormous amount with his life, and is not finished yet. Because of all this, he is considered to be the most brilliant man since Einstein.
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