Wednesday, 09 September 2009 14:55
As well as being a brilliant scientist, honoured for his work all over the world, Stephen Hawking is also an academic celebrity with a sharp sense of humour, who has played himself in lots of TV shows.
Stephen Hawking's work as a theoretical physicist looks into the basic laws that govern the universe. Having done a lot of number crunching using Einstein's General Theory of Relativity he realised that space and time must have had a beginning - the Big Bang - and an end too. His work has also investigated Black Holes, and when he calculated that they actually spit out subatomic particles the phenomena was named after him - Hawking Radiation.
His book A Brief History of Time was a bestseller for a record 237 weeks and is a superb introduction to lots of the big ideas in theoretical physics.
Hawking, who is now 67, is confined to a wheelchair by a motor neurone disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. When he was asked whether looking to the stars takes him beyond his physical limitations this was his inspiring answer:
"The human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance. Source: Stephen Hawking's website
Back in April 2007 Richard Branson invited Professor Hawking onto the 'Vomet Comet' where he got to experience weightlessness for the first time.