Little did we know while writing this article on Stephen Hawking that only 33 days later, we will be saying ‘Goodbye’ to him forever. There’s not much we can say except that the world has lost a genius! R.I.P. – Updated 14th March, 2018 (Stephen Hawking took his last breath today).
In this article on Stephen Hawking facts we will look at some of the most bizarre facts about one of the greatest scientific minds of the 21st century. Some of them are plain ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ but again, they are really true. So, instead of wasting time, let us begin…
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 1-5
1. Stephen Hawking literally said this – “Computer Virus is a life form”! Yes, he argued in favor of it, drawing some really good logics. He eventually concluded saying that the only life form that humans have created is a computer virus and it is of totally destructive nature. Source
2. In 1996, he was in Japan to give a lecture on the topic “The Beginning of Time”. He was explicitly asked to not talk about “re-collapse” of universe for the fear that stock markets may be affected. Source
3. In 1975, Stephen Hawking entered a bet with his friend Kip Throne over the existence of Black Hole. Kip won the bet and Hawking bought 1-year subscription to Penthouse magazine. Source
4. In September 2014 Hawking declared openly that he was an atheist. Source
5. Robert Joseph White – a famous American neurosurgeon who was known for performing head transplant on living monkeys – wanted to perform head transplant on actor Christopher Reeve and Physicist Stephen Hawking. Source
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 6-10
6. In 1993, Stephen Hawking’s synthesiser voice was recorded for “Keep Talking” – a song by Pink Floyd. Source
7. In the finals of his three-year degree course at University College, Oxford, Hawking scored marks that was borderline between first-class honours and second-class honours. As a result of this, an oral examination or viva became necessary to determine whether to award him first class or second class. Only after the examiners spoke to him, they realized that they were talking to someone who was far cleverer than themselves and awarded Hawking a first class degree, which was a prerequisite for a graduate study in cosmology from University of Cambridge. Hawking actually wanted to study in Cambridge. Source
8. Stephen Hawking has starred in ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’.
9. He is currently the ‘17th Lucasian Professor of Mathematics’. It is basically an academic chair is the reputed and prestigious Cambridge University. That position was once held by Sir Isaac Newton from the period 1669 to 1702.
10. The speech synthesiser that Stephen Hawking uses actually has an American accent.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 11-15
11. Stephen Hawking liked Mathematics from a very early age. However, his father, who was actually a doctor and a research biologist hoped that Hawking would study medicine. Turns out that Stephen Hawking really hated biology and he actually described the subject as “too inexact and too descriptive”.
12. Hawking never had an athletic and large build even before his physical illness. That is when he was selected as coxswains in the Oxford Rowing Team. The position he held in the team didn’t require him to row. He was rather in charge of controlling the steering and the stroke rate.
13. At the age of 21 years he was diagnosed with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This disease is also known as the Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is a neurological disorder in which the affected person gradually loses control of all the voluntary muscles.
14. The disease is usually fatal and the doctors who diagnosed him with ALS actually gave him just 3 more years to live. However, Stephen Hawking not only outlived the deadline but has actually lived with the disease for over half a century.
15. Stephen Hawking’s date of birth happens to be the 300th death anniversary of Galileo Galilee. He was born on 8th of January 1942. Galileo died on the same day 300 years ago.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 16-20
16. Words Plus – a company located in California – was the one that created the original synthesiser of Stephen Hawking. The company used to run a speech program on an Apple II Computer. The program was known as Equalizer.
17. The company adapted the speech synthesiser to a portable system so that it can be mounted on a wheel chair. The original portable system had a hand clicker attached to it so that Hawking could use it to click on the word that he wanted to speak and the synthesiser would convert the word into speech.
18. Later, Hawking lost the ability of even moving his hand. The synthesiser had to be modified. Now, the glasses that he wears has an infrared switch mounted on them. The switch is designed to produce words by detecting cheek movements.
19. In recent years, Intel pitched in to overhaul the communication system that Hawking uses for speech. However, he insisted that the robotic voice that was initially there should be retained as he liked the voice. The voice has an American accent and has become an inseparable part of his identity.
20. In 1985 when he was traveling to Geneva, he contracted pneumonia. The situation became worse and he became unconscious. He was in hospital and put on ventilator and people were considering the option of removing all his life supports to move him out of his misery.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 21-25
21. When people were considering removing the life support of Hawking in 1985, his then wife – Jane – completely discarded the idea and gave a go for an operation known as tracheotomy. The operation was successful and allowed Hawking to breathe. However, the unexpected side effect of the operation was that he completely lost his speech. It was this operation that led to the development of his famous speech synthesiser.
22. Stephen Hawking always wanted to write a book that would connect easily with the public and would tell them about the mysteries that the universe holds. However, after his 1985 operation where he even lost the ability to speak (he lost the ability to write long time back), the work not only looked daunting but also impossible.
23. Hawking didn’t really give up. He used his speech synthesiser and with aid of several of his students and his US-based editor with whom he spoke over a speaker-phone, Hawking eventually authored the book titled ‘A Brief History of Time’.
24. The book was published in 1988 and it eventually went on to become best seller on London Sunday Times list for 237 weeks in a row! It was this book that catapulted Stephen Hawking to fame on world stage.
25. A Brief History of Time has sold millions of copies worldwide and not only that, it has also been translated in well over 40 different languages.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 26-30
26. While ‘A Brief History of Time’ was definitely his first book, Hawking didn’t really stop there. He went on to author and co-author several other book. In total he has 15 book under his belt that are either completely authored by him or have a co-author.
27. The first book that he wrote was intended to be simple. However, it was not really that simple for general populace. This is why he came up with the next book called ‘The Universe in a Nutshell’. This book had an illustrated guide of various big theories of cosmology. This book was published in 2001.
28. In 2005, Hawking came up with yet another book titled, ‘The Briefer History of Time’. This book was further simplification from the first two books. This third follow up book simplified the core concepts even more and even gave some knowledge on the latest developments on String Theory.
29. In 2010 came another book from Stephen Hawking. This book was known as ‘The Grand Design’. In this book he went against the very idea that universe was created by God. Interestingly, in all previous works, Hawking actually argued that the idea of God can actually not only coexist but also be compatible with modern theories of science. In ‘The Grand Design’ he went against his own previous theory.
30. In this new book he actually said that Big Bang was nothing more than inevitable consequence of laws of Physics. He argued that because there is gravity, the universe will create itself from just nothing! To quote him, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” In book he actually challenged the belief of Sir Isaac Newton that the universe was created by God.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 31-35
31. In 1963, shortly before Hawking was diagnosed with the Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, he met his would-be wife at a New Year Party. Her name was Jane Wilde. She was an undergraduate student of languages.
32. The two got married in 1965 after Hawking was diagnosed with the disease. Two years after their marriage, Jane gave birth to Robert in 1967 – the couple’s first son.
33. Three years later in 1970, the couple had a girl child called Lucy. In 1979 came the third child called Timothy. Interestingly, Hawking continued to father children long after he had already lost his ability to speak intelligibly and to walk.
34. In 1990 Hawking left Jane for Elaine Mason. Elaine was one of Hawking’s nurses. Elaine and Hawking married in 1995. This second marriage of Hawking strained his relationship with his children with his first wife. The children actually blamed Elaine for cutting off all relationships with their father.
35. Other nurses who took care of Hawking actually reported in 2003 that Elaine actually physically abused Hawking. Police investigation started and Hawking denied such allegations.
Interesting Stephen Hawking Facts: 36-40
36. In 2006 however, Hawking and Elaine eventually filed for divorce and they separated. This is when Hawking once again grew close to his previous family. Hawking quickly reconciled with his previous wife Jane who had been with him through years.
37. After the reconciliation, Hawking grew really close to his daughter Lucy. The two together authored several children’s novels with science theme. Total number of novels they coauthored were 5.
38. British Monarchy offered Knighthood to Stephen Hawking however, he declined the same. It is because of this, he has always been kept off the Birthday Honours List of Queen forever. Source
39. Once, Hawking had the opportunity of dining with Hydrogen Bomb pioneer – Edward Teller. During the dinner, Hawking actually told ‘He [Edward Teller] is Stupid’ using his speech synthesiser and didn’t even bother to turn down the volume. Source
40. Immortality Drive – a large memory device containing digitized DNA sequence of Stephen Hawking, Lance Armstrong, Stephen Colbert and various other people – is orbiting the Earth. It is meant to preserve human DNA in case of a global cataclysm destroying life on Earth. Source