With a CBE, no less than twelve honorary degrees and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Stephen Hawking wasn’t just a scientist. He was described as the Albert Einstein of our time, providing insights that shaped modern cosmology, and once claimed “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe.” So, if you’d like to know more about the man behind the theories, here are five interesting facts about Stephen Hawking that you might not already know…
His nickname actually WAS Einstein
When Stephen Hawking was a youngster his friends nicknamed him ‘Einstein’. Why? Well, one obvious reason could be that he went to Oxford university at just 17 years old (after acing the entry exam with a near-perfect score) and found his first year of studying physics and chemistry ‘boring’.
But the main reason was that, as teenagers, Stephen and his group of friends would gather together to play around with technology in their spare time. He was able to use recycled parts, telephone switchboards and old clocks to cobble together a ‘computer’. Amazingly enough, in 1979 Hawking was award the Albert Einstein Medal, so there’s no doubt that his nickname was a great fit for him!
He lived 50 years longer than expected
He was only 21 years old when Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and was given just two years to live. But he surpassed all medical expectations and went on to live to the age of 76, which is 53 years longer than the professionals thought – beat that! He said it was a case of ‘mind over matter’ and rumour has it that, as professor at Cambridge University, Stephen would whizz around in his wheelchair and run over students’ toes, which shows what a playful sense of humour and zest for life he had!
He was a TV star
If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory you may well have seen Stephen Hawking appear in a number of episodes. But that wasn’t his only starring role. The scientist has also appeared as himself in Star Trek: The Next Generation, he has been interviewed all over the world, and was immortalised in cartoon form on The Simpsons and Futurama. He said that The Simpsons is the best thing on American television, so he was happy to accept a starring role in 3 episodes.
His cheek helped him speak
Ever wondered how Stephen Hawking could talk via the computer on his wheelchair? He had an electronic voice since an infection threatened his life in 1985 and left him unable to speak. So how did he use the computer to read out the sentences he wanted to say? It’s all down to one muscle in his cheek. By moving that muscle slightly, he had complete control over the computer and could say anything he liked, albeit with an American accent!
He wrote books for kids
We sure you’ve already heard of Stephen Hawking’s world-famous bestseller A Brief History of Time, but what about his other books? We’re not talking about The Universe in a Nutshell or The Theory of Everything, we mean his work as a children’s author! Did you know that he co-wrote books for youngsters with his daughter? George’s Secret Key to the Universe and George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt aimed to explain scientific theories of the big bang and black holes to children and make science more accessible for the next generation.