Hawking to Retire, But Not Quit

by Nancy Atkinson on October 27, 2008

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter


Cosmologist Stephen Hawking will retire from his post at Cambridge University next year, but he still intends to continue his exploration of time and space. University policy is that officeholders must retire at the end of the academic year in which they become 67. Hawking will reach that age on Jan. 8, 2009. Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the university, a title once held Isaac Newton. The university said on Friday that he would step down at the end of the academic year in September, but would continue working as Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Hawking became a scientific celebrity through his theories on black holes and the nature of time, work that he carried on despite becoming severely disabled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

He has written a very candid piece on living quite a full life in spite of this disease.

Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. He attended University College in Oxford, and wanted to study mathematics, but it wasn’t available as a major, so he chose Physics instead. After three years and “not very much work,” Hawking said, he was awarded a first class honours degree in Natural Science. He then went to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology, since no one was working in that area in Oxford at the time.

After getting his Ph.D. he became first a Research Fellow, and later on a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. 1973 Stephen came to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

Hawking first earned recognition for his theoretical work on black holes. Disproving the belief that black holes are so dense that nothing could escape their gravitational pull, he showed that black holes leak a tiny bit of light and other types of radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation.”

His 1988 book, “A Brief History of Time,” was an international best-seller; in 2001 he published “The Universe in a Nutshell,” and a children’s book, “George’s Secret Key to the Universe,” was published in 2007, which was co-authored with his daughter Lucy.

To celebrate his 65th birthday in 2007, he took a zero-gravity flight. In part, he went on the flight to bring public attention to space travel. “I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space,” he said.

Most of Hawkings papers are available here (type his name in the search box.)

Sources: MSNBC, Hawking’s website

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

john October 28, 2008 at 3:42 AM

He is a good role model for us all. I hope he keeps us all enthralled for many more years. I believe his sense of humour is still working at full speed.

Kevin F. October 28, 2008 at 4:32 AM

He’s an inspiration.

The smartass in me read Cosmologist Stephen Hawking will retire from his post at Cambridge University next year, but he still intends to continue his exploration of time and space. and I thought “Because there’s not a whole lot else he can do :)”, but that’s not right.

He’s already done far more than I probably ever will. And I couldn’t put down a Brief History of Time.

I salute you, Stephen. And God, I’d give my left arm to go on one of those zero-gravity flights. :D

Joe Shobe October 28, 2008 at 9:25 AM

Mr. Hawking has probably done more to excite and energize a generation about science than any person since Eistein; lay people and young budding scientists alike. While his papers I’ve been able to put down (not get through is more like it), I too couldn’t put down A Brief History in Time. Each of his books seem to begin with a walk through the history of physics, and his explanations on relativity get me closer to really understanding it than anyone elses. I even bought one of his books on tape for my mother to help her glimpse such profound thought.

When he describes the discovery of black holes as the only discovery man has made by thinking about it before ever seeing proof of one, he really gives you a look into the importance of understanding Eistein’s very improtant work. But all that aside, its his ever playfulness and sense of humor that draws people to listen to him.

I was moved that he took his frail self into a weightless flight experience to further society’s interest in space travel, and the statement he made in China a year or so ago, that we must get off of this planet if we are to survive as a species, was maybe his most important message to us all.

God speed (tough never faster than light), Mr. Hawking, and thank you for your wonderful contributions, and for the hopefully many more to come.

Huygens October 28, 2008 at 10:41 AM

Read The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind.

An October 29, 2008 at 7:41 PM

When I read “A Brief History Of Time”, I feel my heart wide opened to this cosmos. Reading his story about black holes, I imagined that I was lonely at the event horizon. Gosh, I love that feeling. Wish him would live more and more long to inspire all of us.

clament October 31, 2008 at 1:28 AM

Totally agree with you, An. The “Black hole” and “The history of time” have truely influence my interest in studying cosmology (of course during leisure time). I salute you too, Prof. Stephen Hawking, please continue to teach/show/bring us humankind deeper into the outer space with your magical words :-)

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: