Biography of Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 to Frank Hawking, a research biologist, and Isobel Hawking. Hawking had two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward. After Hawking was born, the family moved back to London, where his father headed the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research.
In 1950, the Hawking family moved to St. Albans in Hertfordshire where he attended St. Albans High School for Girls (boys were educated there until the age of 10). From the age of 11, he attended St. Albans School, where he was a good, but not exceptional student.
Hawking enrolled at University College, Oxford to study physics. His study habits were considered unimpressive. His final examination score was borderline between first and second class honors, making an 'oral examination' necessary. His physics tutor, Robert Berman, said of the oral examination, "And of course the examiners then were intelligent enough to realize they were talking to someone far more clever than most of themselves."
Hawking received his B.A. Degree at Oxford University in 1962. He originally intended on staying, but found that studying sunspots did not appeal to him and was more interested in theory than in observation. He left Oxford for Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he engaged in the study of theoretical astronomy and cosmology.
Hawking was elected as one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society in 1974, was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982, and became a Companion of Honour in 1989. Hawking is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Hawking is severely disabled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neurone disease, commonly known in the United States as Lou Gehrig's Disease. When he was young, he enjoyed riding horses and at Oxford, he coxed a rowing team. His symptoms of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at Camridge. He lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head. Hawking then gradually lost the use of his arms and legs, and is now completely paralyzed. During a visit to the research center CERN in Geneva in 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia, which was life-threatening. It resulted in a difficulty of breathing, only cured by a tracheotomy in which he lost his natural speech ability. He has since used a voice sythesizer in which he "types" using his cheek. He must prepare his speeches in advance. During a TED Talk, it took him seven minutes to enter his response to answer.
Hawking's computer system attached to his wheelchair is operated by an infra-red 'blink switch' attached to his glasses. The system uses a radio transmission to provide control over doors in his home and office. By crunching his right cheek, he is able to talk, compose speeches and research papers, and browse the World Wide Web. He receives a new computer every 18-24 months donated by Intel. The computer system was created by an American engineer. He once joked that his computer 'had an American accent.'
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