The chair was founded in 1663 with money left in the will of the Reverend Henry Lucas who had been the Member of Parliament for the University. It was first held by Isaac Barrow and then in 1669 by Isaac Newton.
Stephen Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated that it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great Scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but rather should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.
His many publications include The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravity, with W Israel. Stephen Hawking has three popular books published; his best seller A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, and most recently in 2001, The Universe in a Nutshell. There are .pdf and .ps versions of his full publication list.
Professor Hawking has twelve honorary degrees. He was awarded the CBE in 1982, and was made a Companion of Honour in 1989. He is the recipient of many awards, medals and prizes, is a Fellow of The Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Stephen Hawking continues to combine family life (he has three children and one grandchild), and his research into theoretical physics together with an extensive programme of travel and public lectures.
Stephen Hawking's Disability
Stephen Hawking is severely disabled by motor neuron disease, likely a variant of the disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS). Most neuromuscular specialists believe he has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type IV. Hawking's illness is markedly different from typical ALS in the fact that his form of ALS would make for the most protracted case ever documented. A survival for more than 10 years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS; the longest documented durations are 32 and 39 years and these cases were termed benign because of the lack of the typical progressive course.
When he was young, he enjoyed riding horses and playing with other children. At Oxford, he coxed a rowing team, which, he stated, helped relieve his immense boredom at the university. Symptoms of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at Cambridge; he lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head. Worried that he would lose his genius, he took the Mensa test to verify that his intellectual abilities were intact.The diagnosis of motor neuron disease came when Hawking was 21, shortly before his first marriage, and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years. Hawking gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and is now (in 2009) almost completely paralysed.