An insight into Hawking's Achievements

What makes Stephen Hawking such a celebrity Scientist. What are the discoveries and benchmarks created by him in the world of Physics.

Posted 1 year ago in Technology, updated 1 year ago.

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The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

                                                                                                   -Stephen Hawking

One of the greatest Physicist of all time, Stephen Hawking died peacefully in early hours of 14 March 2017. He was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.


Hawking was the first scientist to propose the theory of cosmology which can be explained by the combination of general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics


Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford to Frank and Isobel Hawking. In October 1962, Stephen arrived at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the University of Cambridge to do research in cosmology. In University during 1963 Stephen was diagnosed with ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, shortly after his 21st birthday. Soon he was bound to the wheelchair and was only able to communicate only with his voice which later disappeared with time. Hawking was expected to live only for two to three years but due to wife’s encouragement he went on to live more and devoted his whole time to Research.


Some of the greatest achievements and discoveries made by Stephen Hawking are-

Hawking co-discovered the four laws of black hole mechanics

With James Bardeen and Brandon Carter, Stephan Hawking discovered the four laws of black hole mechanics. These laws are physical properties that black holes are believed to satisfy and are analogous to the laws of thermodynamics. In January 1971, his essay titled “Black Holes” won the prestigious Gravity Research Foundation Award.


Stephen Hawking was the first one to explain the properties of Black holes. Before this, physicists believed nothing could escape a black hole. In 1974, Stephan Hawking showed that black holes emit radiation, which may continue till they exhaust their energy and evaporate. Stephen’s prediction of what became known as the Hawking radiation initially created a controversy but on further research was considered an important breakthrough in theoretical physics.




Along with Roger Penrose, he did pioneer work on singularities

A gravitational singularity is a one-dimensional point which contains infinite mass in an infinitely small space. In a singularity, gravity becomes infinite, space-time curves infinitely and the laws of physics as we know them cease to exist. Along with English mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, Stephan Hawking did path-breaking work on singularities which proved their existence and theorized that the universe might have begun as a singularity. Their Penrose–Hawking singularity theorems attempt to answer when gravitation produces singularities.


He contributed to the theory of cosmic inflation

Introduced by Alan Guth in 1980, cosmic inflation is a theory in physical cosmology which proposes that following the Big Bang, the universe expanded exponentially before settling down to slower expansion. It is now widely accepted. Stephen Hawking was one of the first to calculate quantum fluctuations that were created during cosmic inflation and to show how they might give rise to the spread of galaxies in the universe.

Along with James Hartle, he proposed an important model on universe’s initial state.

Along with James Hartle, Stephen Hawking published a model known as the Hartle–Hawking state in 1983. It proposed that time didn’t exist before the Big Bang and hence the concept of the beginning of the universe is meaningless. The Hartle–Hawking state universe has no beginning as it has no initial boundaries in time or space. It remains one of the most prominent theories on the initial state of the universe.



With Thomas Hertog, he proposed a theory of “top-down cosmology”

In 2006, Stephen Hawking, along with Thomas Hertog of CERN, proposed a theory of “top-down cosmology”. It proposed that the universe had not one unique initial state but consisted of a superposition of many possible initial conditions. Thus as we don’t know the initial conditions at the beginning of the universe, we can’t have a bottom-up model. This leaves the possibility of only a top-down approach as we know the final state of the universe – the one we are in now. The theory became popular as it fits in with the well-known string theory.


Hawking wrote the famous book - A Brief History of Time

In 1988, Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time was published. In which, he explains a range of subjects in cosmology, including the big bang, black holes, and light cones. The book was written in a non-technical language to clearly express his ideas to an average reader. A Brief History of Time became a bestseller and sold more than 10 million copies in 20 years. It appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for record-breaking 237 weeks. It also enhanced Hawking’s international reputation and media described him as “Master of the Universe”.


He also authored several other popular books

After A Brief History of Time, several other works by Hawking were published which went on to be quite popular including Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays(1993), The Universe in a Nutshell (2001), On The Shoulders of Giants (2002), and God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005). He also co-authored a series of children fiction novels with his daughter Lucy Hawking.


Hawking ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll

In a 2002 poll conducted by BBC in the United Kingdom to determine whom the public considered as the greatest British people in history, Stephen Hawking ranked 25. In 2006, he was awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society. In 2009 US President Barack Obama presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States. In 2013, Stephen Hawking was awarded the Russian Special Fundamental Physics Prize, which has been dubbed by the media as the ‘XXI Century Nobel’.


Hawking's work untangled some of the unsolved mysteries of Physics and became Scientist of Century. His findings continue to inspire young scientists.

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