The Contributions of Stephen Hawking
"I don't want to go to school today. I have a cold." No one can truly say that this thought has never crossed their mind. Everyday around the globe, people are missing school, work, and common engagements for various reasons. Although they often may not be the most frivolous of excuses, they are still excuses. What if you are completely paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life? It this isn’t a reason to skip anything; it is most certainly an excuse. However, excuses should not be on the agenda of any high-achieving, world-changing person. Stephen Hawking certainly embodies this idea. From a very young age, Stephen Hawking “was found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which usually kills its victims in two to five years” (Overbye). As most people would react to such news, Hawking was dejected at first. However, what he did after that was simply amazing. He persevered and never succumbed to nature. It is remarkable that here he is in 2008, alive and still contributing for the good of mankind. Stephen Hawking’s contributions range from his proverbial expertise on theoretical and quantum physics and advancements in the field of cosmology to his unheralded betterment of respect for the disabled and handicapped.
“Stephen William Hawking was born on the 8th of January 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England” (Hawking). Hawking attended University College in Oxford as physics major. It was during this period that he was informed that he had ALS disease and that he only had two and half years to live. At first, he was in despair, and he did not want to start his research at Cambridge. However, all these misfortunes did not stop him. His luck began to change when he met a young woman named Jane Wilde. She was very helpful to Hawking, and in 1965, they got married. Furthermore, the Cambridge Physics Department assigned Dennis Sciama as his research adviser. Sciama was an intelligent and inspiring man, and he was sympathetic to Hawking. Within a matter of time, Hawking would become a professorial fellow at the revered University of Cambridge and success was only around the corner.
Quantum and theoretical physics are certainly not the easiest subjects for the common person to understand. However, Dr. Hawking was no ‘common’ person. From a very early age, Dr. Hawking was known to be a genius. According to the documentary viewed in class, Hawking was able to solve “10 out of the 13 questions in three hours while his classmates did only one or two over a week” (VHS). During the 1960s, there were several different issues that kept physicists busy. One of these is the issue regarding the properties of the space and time warping entity called black hole. During this period, Hawking made one of the greatest discoveries in modern quantum physics, one that will be always correlated to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. “Attempting to investigate the microscopic properties of black holes, the gravitational traps from which not even light can escape, Dr. Hawking discovered to his disbelief that they could leak energy and particles into space, and even explode in a fountain of high-energy sparks” (Overbye). We must realize that this ground-breaking discovery occurred in 1973, well after the affects of ALS took effect on Dr. Hawking’s body. However, there was no way Dr. Hawking was going to let it take over his mind. To Hawking, the disease was merely an ‘inconvenience’. His mind was his own and for the following five decades he would utilize it for numerous important discoveries in his field. To further realize the importance of this great discovery, Dr. Andrew Strominger, a Harvard physicist says, “Black holes are still fundamentally enigmatic objects. In fundamental physics, gravity and quantum mechanics are the big things we don’t understand. Hawking’s discovery of black hole radiation was of fundamental importance...
Cited: A Brief History on Time (VHS). Dir. Errol Morris. Narrator: Stephen Hawking. Paramount Studio, 1992.
Fleischer, Doris Zames and Frielda Zames. The Disability Rights Movement. Philadeplhia: Temple University Press, 2001. 147-148, 247.
3rd ed. Ed. Robert E. Lynch et al. Boston: Person Custom Publishing, 2003. 68-71.
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