One hundred and thirty-nine years ago today, the universe graced us with the birth of a genius who would go on to revolutionize the world of physics and in doing so, forever immortalize the name, Albert Einstein. Perhaps it’s somewhat poetic that on the same day, the universe decides to take back another physics superstar, Stephen Hawking.
Hawking was a brilliant scientist and made far too many original contributions to physics and cosmology that can be accounted for in this post. Some of his most exemplary work included his collaboration with Roger Penrose in which they proved that a universe that started with a hot big bang and based on a general relativistic description, obeying the strong energy condition, must have an initial singularity. These mathematical theorems came to be known as the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems. Hawking, however, is most famous for his work on black holes – especially in deriving the laws of thermodynamics for them, which subsequently led to the rise of the AdS/CFT (anti-de Sitter/Conformal Field Theory) framework. He predicted that black holes would give off radiation, which in time came to be known as Hawking radiation and began one of the biggest debates in physics on information paradox. Hawking was also one of the first few people who tried to give a quantum mechanical account of the birth of universe by describing the universe using a quantum state. His work with James Hartle lead to the Hartle-Hawking no-boundary proposal, which is one explanation of where the universe came from. These are some of the many achievements of Hawking, who was the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, a post once held by Isaac Newton and Paul Dirac.
‘How Notable Scientists remember Hawking’[smartslider3 slider=9]
Hawking was a brilliant physicist, but he was also so much more than that. He was socially active and was a great supporter of NHS and disability rights, which added more and much-needed spotlight on the matter. He published books for the lay readers, had a good sense of humor and kept himself relevant by making appearances in mainstream media and making cameos in shows such as The Big Bang Theory and Simpsons. His contributions towards scientific outreach inspired a generation of young scientists and science students, including me and many of my peers.
Sadly, Hawking passed away today, but he lived a good life. He was diagnosed with motor neuron diseases when he a Ph.D. student in his early 20s and the doctors told him he would have 2 years to live. He died today at the age of 76, beating their prediction by about five decades. Hawking was born on the day Galileo Galilei died and he passed away on the day Albert Einstein was born on, but Hawking was his own person and an established scientist and won’t be remembered just by these poetic relations. Hawking’s legacy will continue to live on through the work he has done. In the future, perhaps we will talk about another brilliant physicist who shared their birthday with the brilliant Physicist and Cosmologist, Stephen William Hawking.