Stephen Hawking would have turned 80 today

80 years ago, a great British cosmologist was born who changed the way we look at the universe. From black holes to the Big Bang, his theories on the origins and mechanics of the universe have revolutionised modern physics. And his popular science books have made these complex theories accessible to everyone, young and old. It is thanks to him that even people not particularly interested in science have heard about black holes.


Stephen Hawking would have turned 80 today.

Stephen William Hawking was born on 8 January 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of another "revolutionary", Galileo Galilei.


In 1963, while Hawking was actively studying cosmology - the history and inner mechanics of the universe - at Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In Russia this disease is often referred to as Charcot disease, in English-speaking countries as Lou Gehrig's disease.


It is an indistinguishable disease that affects the nervous system. Doctors predicted that Stephen Hawking would live only two years... But two years later he defended his doctorate and continued to live and work.


And nine years later, in 1974, after a trip to the USSR, where he met Soviet theoretical physicists Yakov Zel'dovich and Alexei Starobinsky, Hawking described the radiation of black holes. And this discovery is still considered his most important contribution to physics to this day.


In 1979 he was given one of the most prestigious academic jobs in the world - he was appointed Lucas Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. This named professorship had existed since 1663 and Hawking became the 17th person in history to be awarded it. He went on to work on the theories of the "death" of the universe as well as Einstein's general theory of relativity.


In 1985, due to complications of illness and an emergency tri-ostomy, he lost the ability to speak. Just at that time, "across the pond" at the American MIT, a programmer, a pioneer in his field, was developing algorithms for "computer voice". His name was Dennis Klatt, and it was his voice that was used in one of the first speech-to-text devices... And then his voice was used in a programme for Hawking. So Clutt's voice became Hawking's voice. And the device itself was developed in his native Cambridge. Hawking picked out words with a muscle in his cheek that had not lost the ability to move.


Hawking was famous for the pithiness of his statements. Among them is a phrase that perfectly sums up his attitude to his own life:


"At 21, my expectations [of life] came to naught. Everything that has happened since then has been a bonus.


Stephen Hawking died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76.


A year later, in April 2019, scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope project - the largest collaboration of astronomers and physicists in history - unveiled the first ever image of the vicinity of a black hole. To obtain this image, astronomers processed and merged observations from different telescopes. They say there were test images before this official image. And I really want to believe that one of them was shown to Hawking.


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