|Hawking (hô'kĭng) Pronunciation Key
British physicist noted for his study of black holes and the origin of the universe, especially the big bang theory. His work has provided much of the mathematical basis for scientific explanations of the physical properties of black holes.
Our Living Language : The world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking needs little introduction to those familiar with the bespectacled man who uses a wheelchair and lectures around the world with the aid of a computerized speech synthesizer. The condition that has left him all but totally paralyzed, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is usually fatal within a few years; but Hawking has beaten the odds by living with the disease for all his adult life, since its onset when he was a 20-year-old college student. Hawking's story is a testament to a determined person's ability to overcome unexpected adversity—his career in fact did not take off until after the disease had been diagnosed. Hawking partly credits the disease for giving him a sense of purpose and the ability to enjoy life. His academic position at Oxford is a chaired professorship in mathematics that was also held by Isaac Newton, in 1669. He originally set out to study mathematics, but it is for his discoveries in physics that he is best known. With his collaborator Roger Penrose, he theorized that Einstein's Theory of General Relativity predicts that space and time have a definite origin and conclusion, providing mathematical support for the Big Bang theory. This led to further attempts to unify General Relativity with quantum theory, one consequence of which is the intriguing view that black holes are not entirely "black," as originally thought, but emit radiation and should eventually evaporate and disappear.