Despite an immobilizing disability, Stephen Hawking’s research has changed science’s fundamental understanding of the universe. A prolific writer, he has published numerous scientific papers on theoretical physics and cosmology as well as three best-selling popular books.
His best-known research accomplishment is his theory of Hawking radiation concerning the nature of energy in black holes. He concludes that eventually all the mass-energy inside a black hole evaporates. With Sir Roger Penrose, Hawking showed that Einstein’s theory of relativity implies that the space and time that began with the Big Bang and is set to end in black holes. Hawking also theorizes that the universe has no boundary or edge.
The recipient of 12 honorary degrees, Hawking was awarded the title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in 1982 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He has received multiple other awards, medals and prizes.
At age 21, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a motor neuron disease. As a result, he is almost totally immobile and must speak through a voice synthesizer. Despite this disability, he went on to Cambridge University to earn a Ph.D. From 1979 until 2009, he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post previously held in 1669 by Isaac Newton. He is still an active part of Cambridge University as Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.