Lesson 47: Stephen Hawking (Level 2+)

Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a neuromuscular wasting disease.

Ultimately the disease reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements. His mind was unaffected.

According to the prognosis he had only a couple of years to live. But he proved the doctors wrong. With the help of prosthetics and a wheelchair, which he drove recklessly, he was able to work for over half a century. He used a machine to talk. He used this synthesised voice to intrigue the public about the power of science.

Working on Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity he pronounced that the universe did have a beginning. This beginning is known as the Big Bang. He also said that the universe could possibly have an end as well.

The Big Bang is now the most widely accepted theory of the origin of the universe.

Hawking also contributed immensely to the knowledge of Black Holes. He suggested that Black Holes were neither black nor holes. Black Holes emit thermal radiation and eventually evaporate altogether.

Stephen Hawking never let his condition defeat him. He lived his life with great energy. He appeared on TV shows; he went to the South Pole and experienced zero gravity.

At a physicists’ banquet in Mumbai, Hawking zoomed onto the dance floor and whirled his wheelchair to the beat of Chaiyya Chaiyya.

Most of Hawking’s work was done when the disease had already progressed to the point when he could no longer write. Stephen Hawking could no longer scribble thoughts, play with equations, or sketch diagrams, but was able to hold large logical arrangements in the imagination.

Stephen Hawking died on March 14, 2018 at the age of 76. Coincidentally Einstein was born on March 14, 1879.

Hawking was born exactly 300 years to the day Galileo Galilei died.

“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking

“I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.” – Stephen Hawking

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking

Vocabulary:

Neuromuscular – relating to nerves and muscles.
Wasting (disease) – a disease where muscle and fat tissue lose strength.
Flex – Bend
Prognosis – Forecast of the course of a disease
Prosthetic – an artificial body part
Reckless – careless, not cautious
Synthesise – produce electronically
Intrigue – fascinate
Theory of Relativity – is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915.
Big Bang Theory – the Big Bang Theory is the leading explanation about how the universe began.
Black Holes – A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out.
Zero Gravity – Weightlessness, floating in space.

Discussion Points:

Stephen Hawking was a physicist. He was also a cosmologist.

What do you think a physicist does?
What does a cosmologist do?
What will Stephen Hawking be remembered for?
Can you name two physicists?
What discoveries were they known for?

Please write a short paragraph about Stephen Hawking using your own words. Please find a title for your paragraph.