Updated on April 13, 2013 Dani Alicia moreContact Author Stephen Hawking is a famous revolutionary physicist of our time. His research helped to change the way scientists view physics and cosmology. He has taught at many different universities in addition to doing his research. Despite an illness that has him almost completely paralyzed, he continues to provide the world with his phenomenal research and discoveries. Stephen Hawking can be compared with people like Aristotle, Newton, and Einstein. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays Buy Now Physics: Why Matter Matters! Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 to Frank and Isobel Hawking in Oxford, England. His parents decided that his mother should give birth to Stephen at Oxford University due to the war (World War II) that was raging on, since it had been agreed that each country’s universities would not be bombed. Although both of Stephen’s parents were graduates of Oxford University, they did not meet each other there. They met during the early years of the war, when both of them worked at the National Institute of Medical Research. After having Stephen, Isobel also gave birth to two girls, Mary and Philippa.
In the early 1950s, the family moved to St. Albans, a small town just north of London. When Stephen was thirteen, they adopted a younger boy named Edward. The Hawkings lived in an old house that was in desperate need of repair, however they never bothered with repairing it. Neighbors thought of them as odd and eccentric, and during dinner time, each member of the family would read a book at the dinner table rather than talk. Frank Hawking wanted Stephen to attend a larger, more prestigious school as a child. He wanted Stephen to attend Westminister, however, he couldn’t afford the tuition. Stephen was going to take an exam to earn a scholarship, however, he became ill on the day of the exam so he ended up going to St. Albans School instead. This school was associated with a local cathedral but was academically strong. As a child, Stephen showed a huge interest in astronomy.
He would spend time with his family gazing at the stars and wondering about the mysteries of the universe. Stephen and his friends also enjoyed playing board games. They started off by playing regular Monopoly, but when they grew tired of that, they modified the game to make it more advanced. Once tired of this new version of Monopoly, they began making their own board games, making them more complicated and artistic. By the end of 1954, Stephen and his friends had outgrown board games and often talked about religion. Although Stephen had won a divinity award at school, he was not convinced of the mysteries of religion and looked at things from a more scientific perspective. His friends began to realize the depth of his intelligence and the skepticism he had about religion. Stephen became interested in ESP (extra sensory perception) for a short time until attending a lecture which discredited the field. Stephen loved taking things apart to find out how they worked, but often had trouble putting them back together.
In 1958, he and his friends built their very own computer which they called Logical Uniselector Computing Engine (LUCE). It had primitive operations, but it was still amazing that children of this age built a working computer using old clock parts and a telephone switchboard. During Stephen’s last year at the school, he and his friends built another, more updated version of LUCE, however, a professor found the box one day and thought it was a pile of junk and threw it away. At the age of 17, Stephen earned a scholarship to Oxford University to study physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Stephen had to take an 12½ hour examination to determine if he would qualify for the scholarship. He earned an amazing 95% on the physics part of the examination, and only scored slightly lower in the other areas of the exam. Life at Oxford University started off as very boring for Stephen. His friends did not go to Oxford so he was often very lonely.
His understanding of physics was so advanced that he often did not study or do his homework, so his professors considered him as a lazy student. This did not affect his grades because during those times at Oxford, the only grades that counted toward a degree was the final exams that were given during a student’s first and third year. Stephen often only did assignments that he absolutely had to, but he still was a top student in his class. His social life changed during his second year at Oxford. He joined Oxford’s rowing team. The rowing team was considered a big deal at the university, much like modern day college football. Although oarsmen of the rowing team were usually very muscular, the coxswain (the person who sits in the front and steers the boat) had to be small person who wouldn’t weigh the boat down. This was perfectly suited to Stephen’s small, skinny size.