Dr. Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA, (January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018) was a British theoretical physicist who devoted much of his life to probing the spacetime described by general relativity and the singularities where it breaks down. And he did most of this work while confined to a wheelchair, brought on by the progressive neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Director of Research at the Institute for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, Hawking was also the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a post once held by Isaac Newton. He also wrote the international bestseller A Brief History of Time. The book spent more than four years on the London Sunday Times bestseller list—the longest run for any book in history.
While many prominent physicists, cosmologists and astronomers have made important contributions to the study of quantum gravity and cosmology, the impact of Stephen Hawking's contributions to the field truly stand out. Although his work on black hole thermodynamics is perhaps the most well known, Hawking has also made major contributions to the study of singularity theorems in general relativity, black hole uniqueness, quantum fields in curved spacetimes, Euclidean quantum gravity, the wave function of the universe and many other areas as well.
In the late 1960's, Hawking proved that a singularity must have occurred at the birth of the universe. Between 1965 and 1970 Hawking worked on singularities in the theory of general relativity devising new mathematical techniques to study this area of cosmology. Much of his work in this area was done in collaboration with Roger Penrose.
Between 1970 and 1975, Hawking was appointed to the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Part of his reason for moving to Caltech was a hope that his physical condition would be alleviated by the forgiving Californian climate. However, his condition deteriorated to the point where he needed to use a wheelchair practically all the time. The Engineering faculty at Caltech was asked if they could build a motorised wheelchair for him. But as Hawking himself explained during a televised biography, the technology was in its infancy even in the USA. Caltech's engineers piled so much onto a standard chassis, without regard to fundamentals such as its centre of gravity, that on its first outing it ran forward for about three feet then flipped over backwards, spilling Hawking onto the ground. It is believed that having Howard Wolowitz be his personal engineer during his stay there (in the show) is a sideways reference to this - note Howard ends up with a handful of spare parts that he can't figure out and doesn't know where to fit them.
While at Caltech, Hawking began to apply his previous ideas to the study of black holes. In 1974 he first recognized a truly remarkable property of black holes, objects from which nothing was supposed to be able to escape. By taking into account quantum mechanics, he was able to show that black holes can radiate energy as particles are created in their vicinity. His success with proving it made him work from that time on combining the theory of general relativity with quantum theory. Another remarkable achievement of Hawking's using these techniques was his "no boundary proposal" made in 1983 with Jim Hartle of Santa Barbara. Hawking explains that this principle would mean:- ... that both time and space are finite in extent, but they don't have any boundary or edge. ... there would be no singularities, and the laws of science would hold everywhere, including at the beginning of the universe.
In Geneva, at CERN (the big particle accelerator), in the summer of 1985, Hawking caught pneumonia and was rushed to hospital. He was flown back to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, where a surgeon carried out a tracheotomy. That operation saved his life, but took away his voice. Hawking was given a computer system to enable him to have an electronic voice.
Hawking played himself on episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "The Simpsons" and "Futurama."
Hawking died on March 14, 2018 in Cambridge, England at age 76. His death was acknowledged in "The Bow Tie Asymmetry" episode in a scene released to YouTube.
Stephen Hawking is a hero of Sheldon, Leonard, Rajesh, and Howard. Howard and Raj were overjoyed to show Sheldon and Leonard a Stephen Hawking lecture from MIT in 1974, before "he became a creepy computer voice," according to Howard, who reveals as much with his characteristic hand-to-mouth impression. (1x01: "Pilot") Meanwhile, Leonard anxiously shared with the guys that David Underhill did this hysterical impersonation of Stephen Hawking having phone sex with a robotic monotone: "What are you wearing?" (2x11: "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis") Also, Raj has stated the guys left that fake message from Stephen Hawking on Sheldon's voice mail, with Howard's impression: "I wish to discuss your theories of black holes. Meet me at the Randy’s Donut by the airport at 2:00 a.m." (4x21: "The Agreement Dissection") Sheldon particularly worships Stephen Hawking. In fact, Sheldon dressed up as him for Halloween when he was six years old, thinks he is perhaps his only intellectual equal, and was willing to undergo a series of grueling tasks beyond comparison to the Twelve Labors of Hercules in order to meet him. ("The Hawking Excitation")
Hawking appeared in "The Hawking Excitation", following the guest appearance of Leonard Nimoy. Hawking was coming to the university for a couple weeks to lecture, and he was looking for an engineer to help maintain the equipment on his wheelchair. Hence, Howard got an e-mail from the office of Stephen Hawking. Amazed, Leonard compared Howard to Hawking's pit crew, and as a word of caution, he said Howard should not do his Stephen Hawking impression in front of him. Right then, Howard did the impression: "You're right. I suppose that could be considered offensive." On his first day with Hawking, Howard talked about movies, showed him some card tricks, and even read a couple pages from his new book. Later, he made an adjustment on the motor drive to Hawking's wheelchair, and when he was putting it back together, he could not for the life of himself figure out where some gears and springs went. Howard gave them to Leonard and Raj who appreciated them as "Hawking souvenirs," keeping one for himself. In the interim, Sheldon proffered to Howard, "Well, how about this? Just give him my paper on the Higgs boson. If he sees the incredible breakthrough I've made, he'll reach out to me." After Howard gave Sheldon's paper to him, Professor Hawking was really impressed and wanted to meet Sheldon, causing Sheldon to excitedly shout. Eagerly standing before him, Sheldon politely told Stephen Hawking it was a pleasure and honor to meet him, to which Hawking simply asserted he knew. Professor Hawking expressed his joy in reading Sheldon's paper, and moreover, told Sheldon that he clearly has a brilliant mind. Similarly, Sheldon stated, "I know." Fascinated by Dr. Cooper's thesis that the Higgs boson is a black hole accelerating backwards through time, Hawking told him. Sheldon thanked him, and gave the anecdote that it just came to him one morning in the shower. Next, Hawking divulged that it was wrong, unfortunately, with an arithmetic mistake on page two. A dumbfounded Sheldon proclaimed he doesn't make arithmetic mistakes, so Hawking then posed the query of whether he was saying that Hawking did. Sheldon quickly recovered with a series of "no"'s. He fainted, uttering he made a "boo-boo" and gave it to Stephen Hawking, whom was dismayed with this recent turn of events. ("The Hawking Excitation")
While Sheldon spent hours combing through his childhood journals and research papers, thinking perhaps he already hit upon the idea that would win him his Nobel Prize, Sheldon's assistant Alex Jensen informed Amy, "He’s asked me to hold all calls unless you’re Stephen Hawking, his mother or himself from the future." ("The Higgs Boson Observation")
Hawking also appeared in "The Extract Obliteration", albeit only his voice. Hawking accepted a request by Sheldon to join him in the popular online game, w:Words With Friends. A bemused Sheldon asked Leonard, Raj and Howard to ponder the implication, so Howard chimed in, "That somewhere right now Stephen Hawking is saying, damn it, I meant to click 'no'." Thus, Sheldon walked them through it, "The game is not called Words With Strangers. No, it’s not even called Words With Acquaintances." Despite another counter by Raj, he finished, "It is called Words With … Friends!," and deemed their friendship official. Sheldon considered it paradigm-shifting to officially be Stephen Hawking's friend and that his own friends may have peaked merely by association with himself as a perceived official friend of Hawking. Further, with this assumption, he revealed he had everything he ever wanted since he was six years old, aside from a bunk bed with a slide. Whilst Leonard provided sentiments, Howard asserted he knew Hawking, adding he also worked with him, missing Sheldon's point altogether. Leonard attempted to clarify that may not mean Hawking is actually his friend, just as Hawking's move in the game diverted Sheldon's attention. Sheldon walked away thinking of corresponding fun nicknames, "Coop" and "Wheels," upon Hawking's approval. Meanwhile, Sheldon delighted at his success in winning several rounds, "One of the greatest intellects of our time has agreed to engage with me in a gentlemanly battle of wits," as well as quipped about deflating Hawking's tires and spanking him so hard his grad students would not be able to sit down. This action excited an onlooking Amy, also awed by Hawking, with Sheldon citing he has been allowed to call him "Stephen", since "Wheels" was not okay. Amy suggested ex·tract (verb) for double points, based on Hawking's act, causing Sheldon to question his intellectual honesty, but promptly came up with ex·tract (initial-stress-derived noun), in turn, easing him. Later, Sheldon bemoaned that Hawking subsequently stopped playing for three days, so Raj surmised Sheldon was not challenging enough for the genius. Sheldon retorted, "Not challenging? I was humiliating the man. I was thinking of writing a book called A Brief History of the Time I Made Stephen Hawking Cry Like a Little Girl." Howard then understood his problem therein; Hawking hates to lose and is a big baby who should be in a stroller instead of a wheelchair, according to Wolowitz. This fact was exemplified by a time when Howard was working with Stephen Hawking — Hawking insisted Johnny Depp was in The Matrix, and when confronted with the truth in an online reference, he invited everyone, but Howard to the pizza party the next day and begrudged, "your invitation must have gotten lost in The Matrix." Worried, Sheldon regretted his own actions and attempted a Jedi mind trick on Hawking. A clearly distraught Sheldon told Leonard his woes, amidst ignoring Leonard's concerns, stating that Hawking and he were no longer friends since Hawking hates him for the humiliation he received and stopped playing. He questioned why everyone loves him except for Stephen Hawking. Leonard tried to help by proposing Hawking was busy, but Sheldon saw he was playing other people currently, hence, he resounded Howard's words. Leonard reasoned since Sheldon was so good, Hawking was taking his time to meet the challenge. Still saddened, Sheldon blamed Amy. After Sheldon did not hear back from Hawking as revealed by an imploring Howard, Raj attempted to lighten Sheldon's spirit, pointing out that if he was a sore loser, Sheldon would be better off without Hawking. Despite the fact that Hawking is everything he ever wanted in a friend, a genius whom talks like a robot, Sheldon guessed he had to improve Howard and Raj as friends, just as a play by Hawking was executed. Sheldon was ecstatic, exclaiming "'Coop' and 'Rolling Thunder' are together again," finally with a Hawking approved nickname. Both Sheldon and Howard understood throwing the game would secure Sheldon's friendship with the smartest man in the world, yet, Sheldon switched back-and-forth in his decision to hit send, stymied by another ethical conundrum as well as Howard and Raj's support either way (rather characteristic of his friends). Sheldon recalled his mother's wisdom about being true to one's self, juxtaposed by his distaste for her religious beliefs, thus, he played his measly word choice of at to be Hawking's friend. Professor Hawking phoned Dr. Cooper to thank him for a really enjoyable game, as Sheldon reciprocated, and also called, unbeknownst to an eager Sheldon and Leonard, to proceed to jokingly insult Sheldon, or as Hawking called him, "Dr. Loser." After Hawking laughed at him, Sheldon conceded, politely telling him he was very impressed. Next, Hawking asked if Sheldon liked brain teasers, whereupon receiving an affirmative response, Hawking gibed, "What does Sheldon Cooper and a black hole have in common? They both suck. Neener neener," leaving Leonard in fits of laughter and Sheldon taken aback and frowning. ("The Extract Obliteration") In "The Troll Manifestation", Professor Hawking pulls a prank on Leonard and Sheldon after they publish a paper together on-line. Hawking makes fun of the paper and the guys, but really found their work intriguing. He was just bored after spending forty years in a wheelchair. He signed off on Skype saying he had to help the neighborhood kid with his math homework.
Raj so much as questioned whether Sheldon chained up Leonard Nimoy, Bill Gates, or Stephen Hawking in an old storage room at the California Institute of Technology. Howard then asked, "Why would he chain up Stephen Hawking?," with Raj responding, "Howard, please, you can’t treat the man differently just because he’s disabled. That’s not okay." ("The 43 Peculiarity")
In the 200th episode, "The Celebration Experimentation", he appearred on Skype as a guest at Sheldon's birthday party and sang to him.
In "The Proposal Proposal", Stephen tells Sheldon to make Amy's ring like Saturn and put a ring around it after Sheldon expressed his desire to propose to Amy. After a fight with Amy, Sheldon ends up discussing his argument with Stephen Hawking. Sheldon says that his dinner companions were in the presence of a world class mind and all they wanted to talk about was themselves. Professor Hawking can't get Sheldon to see the irony in his statement.
In a scene from "The Bow Tie Asymmetry" that wasn't in the final edit, married Sheldon and Amy get a present from Stephen, a pocket watch. In it is engraved that it is about "time" that Sheldon married Amy. This was the tribute by the cast and staff of "The Big Bang Theory" to the late physicist and fellow cast member.
- Stephen Hawking - The Official Website
- The Mathematics Genealogy Project - Stephen Hawking
- Stephen Hawking on Wikipedia