Stephen Hawking - life in quotes
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
Professor Hawking with second wife Elaine Mason after they were married at Cambridge registry office in September 1995. Hawking's first wife, Jane Wilde, gave birth to his three children before the couple separated in 1991. Hawking then married Mason, who had become his nurse after his split from Wilde. Hawking divorced for the second time in 2006.
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
Stephen Hawking at 19, coxing for an Oxford rowing eight. The year was 1961. Hawking claimed he became involved with rowing because he was bored studying physics. He moved to Cambridge to study for his PhD and has been there ever since. He was 21 when he first began to show signs of Lou Gehrig's disease, a type of motor neurone disease.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Hawking lectures a class at the Northeastern University in Boston in 1990. Though he was already well-known in the science community for his work on black holes and big bang theory, Hawking became a household name following the publication of 'A Brief History of Time' (left) in 1988. The book remained a Sunday Times' bestseller for more than four years and sold more than 9m copies worldwide.
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
The Queen meets Hawking in 2006 at a Buckingham Palace reception for representatives of the British scientific community. Hawking became one of the youngest ever members of the Royal Society in 1974 and received a CBE in 1982. The scientist also enjoys cult status in pop culture and has appeared as himself in episodes of 'Futurama', 'The Simpsons', 'Star Trek' and 'Red Dwarf'.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
Hawking experiences zero gravity on board a jet making parabolic loops over the Atlantic in April 2007.
“However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
Nelson Mandela met with Hawking in Johannesburg in May 2008. Hawking was in Africa to lend his support to plans to create the continent's first postgraduate centres for advanced maths and physics after the British government refused to provide funding.
“The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.”
Pope Benedict XVI greets Hawking during a special audience for scientists at the Vatican in October 2008. Hawking has spent much of his life trying to make his work more understandable to the non-scientific community. "My goal is simple," he has said. "It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." Hawking never tackled the existence or otherwise of God until 2010, when in an interview to promote his book
he said that "it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going". The following year he left no room for doubt when he said
for people who are afraid of the dark".
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
US President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, 2012. The medal is the highest civilian honor in the United States.