The life and works of Stephen Hawking

In 1974 Hawking drew on quantum theory to declare that black holes should emit heat and eventually pop out of existence.

Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking's proposal that black holes radiate heat stirred up one of the most passionate debates in modern cosmology. Hawking argued that if a black hole could evaporate, all the information that fell inside over its lifetime would be lost forever. It contradicted one of the most basic laws of quantum mechanics, and plenty of physicists disagreed. Hawking came round to believing the more common, if no less baffling, explanation that information is stored at a black hole’s event horizon, and encoded back into radiation as the black hole radiates.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Stephen Hawking

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.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Stephen Hawking

Hawking’s run of radical discoveries led to his election in 1974 to the Royal Society at the young age of 32. Five years later, he became the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, arguably Britain’s most distinguished chair, and a post formerly held by Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and Paul Dirac, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Stephen Hawking

Hawking was not, perhaps, the greatest physicist of his time, but in cosmology he was a towering figure. There is no perfect proxy for scientific worth, but Hawking won the Albert Einstein award, the Wolf prize, the Copley medal, and the. The Nobel prize, however, eluded him.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Stephen Hawking

Hawking’s first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied 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.

(Photograph:Reuters)