STEPHEN HAWKING: PHYSICIST, DREAMER AND TEACHER

by | Mar 20, 2018 | Opinion, page 2

Theoretical physics: an otherwise complex subject for many, but an intellectual proving ground for others. With greatly respected minds such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Galileo Galilei making up the field where philosophy and science mold together, it’s often viewed as a subject too difficult to understand. However, for Professor Stephen Hawking, theoretical physics was just another class to teach at the University of Cambridge. Hawking’s passion and knowledge of the subject not only brought forth new theories to test about scientific anomalies like black holes, but also assisted students in understanding the strenuous subject. But, to the surprise of many, on March 14, 2018, Professor Hawking, after 76 years of living here on Earth, finally joined the universe he cared so much about as he passed on to experience a new journey. As his students, colleagues and family members reflect on his life, many are left wondering why he or his lessons, matter.

 

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in the town of Oxford, England. Later attending the University College, Oxford, at age 17, Hawking initially wished to study mathematics, but instead chose physics and chemistry since mathematics was not offered at Oxford. Three years later, in October of 1962, Hawking arrived at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge to conduct research in cosmology. Unfortunately, after one year of attendance at the University, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, confining him to a wheelchair, and was given two years to live.

 

Despite this massive burden, along with the inability to voluntarily move his arms or legs, Hawking persevered, obtaining his PhD as well as publishing his first thesis, Properties of Expanding Universe in 1965, when his life was predicted to end.

 

After publishing several other scientific essays, as well as receiving the Adams award for his paper Singularities and the Geometry of Spacetime, Hawking then set his sights to understand the enigmatic phenomenon of black holes. Following a visit to Moscow, Russia in 1974, Hawking proposed the theory that rotating black holes emit particles or radiation, which implied that ‘black’ holes were not actually completely black and should evaporate over time.

 

A fellow scientist and University of Redlands Professor Tyler Nordgren, explained to the Bulldog why Hawking’s  angle of interpretation was so groundbreaking both to him and the scientific community.

 

“His book, A Brief History of Time, came out the year I got my PhD so I was already a scientist by the time he burst onto the world stage,” said Nordgren. “But I was struck by how he was able to take such a complicated subject, black holes and the Big Bang and share them with the general audience. In addition, because of his disease, he was forced to find ways of picturing his research other than equations. This came in the forms of literal pictures and shapes. As someone who has always sought to combine art and science I was really amazed at this and it helped inform what would become my own books.”  

 

In honor of his research, this proposal has come to be known as ‘Hawking radiation.’

 

While Stephen Hawking was further studying the universe, he was also rising in the ranks at Cambridge University, eventually becoming a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1979 to 2009 — a position once held by Isaac Newton himself.

 

Although Professor Hawking the man is no longer with us, his legacy, works and spirit still remain, as his theories will continue to challenge scientists for decades to come. A publisher of many works and a great contributor to the scientific community, Stephen Hawking proves that our destiny, and our lives are truly in our hands, since a young man at age 22 was expected to succumb to a paralyzing disease, but instead thrived for 54 more groundbreaking years.

 

Truly, Professor Hawking’s greatest lesson is this: whether we are scientists, singers, writers, or company employees, we have the power to overcome any adversities and one day become one with the vast universe we all inhabit.

 

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in the town of Oxford, England. Later attending the University College, Oxford, at age 17, Hawking initially wished to study mathematics, but instead chose physics and chemistry since mathematics was not offered at Oxford. Three years later, in October of 1962, Hawking arrived at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge to conduct research in cosmology. Unfortunately, after one year of attendance at the University, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, confining him to a wheelchair, and was given two years to live.

 

Despite this massive burden, along with the inability to voluntarily move his arms or legs, Hawking persevered, obtaining his PhD as well as publishing his first thesis, ‘Properties of Expanding Universe’ in 1965, when his life was predicted to end.

 

After publishing several other scientific essays, as well as receiving the Adams award for his paper ‘Singularities and the Geometry of Spacetime,’ Hawking then set his sights to understand the enigmatic phenomenon of black holes. Following a visit to Moscow, Russia in 1974, Hawking proposed the theory that rotating black holes emit particles or radiation, which implied that ‘black’ holes were not actually completely black and should evaporate over time.

 

A fellow scientist and University of Redlands Professor Tyler Nordgren, explained to the Bulldog why Hawking’s  angle of interpretation was so groundbreaking both to him and the scientific community.

 

“His book, A Brief History of Time, came out the year I got my PhD so I was already a scientist by the time he burst onto the world stage,” said Nordgren. “But I was struck by how he was able to take such a complicated subject, black holes and the Big Bang and share them with the general audience. In addition, because of his disease, he was forced to find ways of picturing his research other than equations. This came in the forms of literal pictures and shapes. As someone who has always sought to combine art and science I was really amazed at this and it helped inform what would become my own books.”  

 

In honor of his research, this proposal has come to be known as ‘Hawking radiation.’

 

While Stephen Hawking was further studying the universe, he was also rising in the ranks at Cambridge University, eventually becoming a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1979 to 2009 — a position once held by Isaac Newton himself.

 

Although Professor Hawking the man is no longer with us, his legacy, works and spirit still remain, as his theories will continue to challenge scientists for decades to come. A publisher of many works and a great contributor to the scientific community, Stephen Hawking proves that our destiny, and our lives are truly in our hands, since a young man at age 22 was expected to succumb to a paralyzing disease, but instead thrived for 54 more groundbreaking years.

 

Truly, Professor Hawking’s greatest lesson is this: whether we are scientists, singers, writers, or company employees, we have the power to overcome any adversities and one day become one with the vast universe we all inhabit.

 

Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Caillie Roach.

<a href="https://www.theredlandsbulldog.com/author/zach/" target="_self">Zachary Williams</a>

Zachary Williams

I'm a young man with a passion for writing and reporting who enjoys discussing politics, film, and local events at the University of Redlands. I hope these articles can bring you new information, as well as make a difference in the world!

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