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…
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 logic. He eventually concluded saying that the only life form that humans have created is a computer virus and it is of totally destructive nature.
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 the 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 a 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
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 were 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 wanted to study in Cambridge. Source
8. Stephen Hawking had starred in ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’.
9. He was the ‘17th Lucasian Professor of Mathematics’. It is basically an academic chair at 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 used actually has an American accent.
Stephen Hawking Facts: 11-15
11. Stephen Hawking liked Mathematics from a very early age. However, his father, who was 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 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 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 Galilei. He was born on 8th of January 1942. Galileo died on the same day 300 years ago.
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 wheelchair. 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. The glasses that he wore had an infrared switch mounted on them. The switch was designed to produce words by detecting cheek movements.
19. Intel pitched in to overhaul the communication system that Hawking used 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 had 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 a ventilator and people were considering the option of removing all his life support to move him out of his misery.
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 a 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 the London Sunday Times list for 237 weeks in a row! It was this book that catapulted Stephen Hawking to fame on the 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.
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 books. In total he has 15 books 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 the 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 the 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 said that the Big Bang was nothing more than an 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 the book he challenged the belief of Sir Isaac Newton that the universe was created by God.
Stephen Hawking Facts: 31-35
31. In 1963, shortly before Hawking was diagnosed with 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 blamed Elaine for cutting off all relationships with their father.
35. Other nurses who took care of Hawking reported in 2003 that Elaine physically abused Hawking. Police investigation started and Hawking denied such allegations.
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 themes. Total number of novels they co-authored 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 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
Stephen Hawking Facts: 41-45
41. Stephen Hawking was one of 1,000+ experts who signed an open letter in which they urged that AI weapon systems should be banned globally. Other experts include the likes of Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk etc. Source
42. In 2006 Stephen Hawking was invited to the Vatican for a conference. Pope John Paul was among the audience of Hawking. The Pope was having difficulty understanding Hawking and hence, he knelt down beside the wheel chair of Hawking. This act urged one of the scientists to say “things certainly have changed since Galileo”. Source
43. In 2009 on June 28, Stephen Hawking threw a party. The party was meant for time travelers only. He sent out the invites after the party was over. Hawking waited for long and no one arrived.
44. In 2001, a stunning statement was made by Stephen Hawking. He said that if humans are not re-engineered, we may be risking machine rule! Source
45. Elaine Mason – the second wife of Stephen Hawking – was the wife of David Mason – the engineer who designed the speech synthesiser used by Hawking. Source
Stephen Hawking Facts: 46-50
46. Stephen Hawking’s son Timothy Hawking used to play pranks on his father when he was just a child. He not only added the word ‘Swear’ to Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesiser, but also used his wheelchair as ‘go-kart’! Source
47. At Oxford when Hawking was in his final year, he fell down from stairs and went to see the doctor thinking that he was becoming clumsier. The doctor advised him only one thing – ‘lay off the beer’. Source
48. In 1976, Hawking was invited to attend the induction of Prince Charles in the Royal Society. Charles was intrigued by the wheel chair of Hawking. Hawking demonstrated the capabilities of his wheelchair by twirling it around and in the process, ran over the toes of Prince Charles. Hawking however regretted that he didn’t get an opportunity of running over the toes of Margaret Thatcher. Source
49. In 2007, on April 26, Stephen Hawking became the first quadriplegic in the world to experience Zero Gravity. He experienced it on a Zero Gravity Corporation flight.
50. US President Barack Obama awarded Stephen Hawking with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Stephen Hawking Facts: 51-55
51. Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario appointed Stephen Hawking as first Distinguished Research Chair.
52. In 2004, Stephen Hawking reversed his own theory (given in 1966) that black holes swallow up everything in their own path forever. He declared that black holes can never support space travel into other universes.
53. Stephen Hawking was the person who found out that black holes emit radiations. He found it by combining quantum theory with theory of relativity.
54. We know that Albert Einstein is well-known for the equation E=mc2. Stephen Hawking is no different. He is well-known for the equation:
55. Hawking strongly believed that time travel is possible with our current understanding, but says that there has to be Chronology Protection Law in place to prevent time travelers from traveling back in time and killing their parents.
Stephen Hawking Facts: 56-61
56. When Hawking was in his teens, he built a computer from recycled parts. Of course, he took help from several of his friends. The computer he built along with his friends was used for solving rudimentary mathematical equations. Source
57. The 1965 doctoral thesis of Stephen Hawking was posted by Cambridge University on its website in October 2017. The demand for the paper was so high that the university’s website was overwhelmed by visitors and the server crashed! Source
58. In 2006, Hawking publicly advocated the colonization of other planets by humans. At the same time he also expressed his wish to go into space and joked that billionaire Richard Branson will help him. Guess what? Richard Branson paid for all the expenses for Hawking’s 2007 zero-gravity experience! Source
59. Back in 2006 when Hawking was in the Vatican for cosmology conference, Pope John Paul II discouraged him from studying the universe stating that the origin of the universe was God’s work and it shouldn’t be explored. Source
60. When Hawking was in school, his friends gave him the nickname – ‘Einstein’. Source
61. He died on 14th March, 2018.