Kerala State Board New Syllabus Plus One English Textbook Answers Unit 1 Chapter 3 Quest for a Theory of Everything Text Book Questions and Answers, Summary, Notes.
Kerala Plus One English Textbook Answers Unit 1 Chapter 3 Quest for a Theory of Everything (Profile)
Quest for a Theory of Everything (Profile) Textual Questions
Plus One English Chapter 3 Notes Question 1.
How did Hawking startle the audience?
He startled his audience by telling them that there was an end in sight for Theoretical Physics. He invited them to join him in a sensational escape through time and space.
Hss Guru Plus One English Notes Question 2.
Stephen Hawking did not appear to be a promising choice to lead any adventure. Why?
He was sitting in a wheelchair while one of his students was reading his lecture to the audience. His appearance was not healthy and naturally he did not appearto be a promising choice to lead any adventure.
Hss Live Guru Plus One English Notes Question 3.
Can a person be judged by appearance alone? Justify your response.
A person cannot be judged by appearance alone. Many great men in history did not have a great appearance. Napoleon Bonaparte was a very short person. Franklin Roosevelt, one of the greatest American Presidents, spent most of his working hours in a wheelchair, and he walked with leg braces and canes, usually with help. Mother Theresa did not appear a robust person but she was really great.
Hsslive Guru Plus One English Notes Question 4.
What do you learn about Stephen Hawking’s childhood?
He was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England. His parents were Frank and Isobel Hawking. They were not wealthy. Hawking attended the local St. Alban’s school. By the time he was 8, he was seriously thinking of becoming a scientist. His father wanted him to study medicine. But Stephen thought biology was too imprecise. He wanted a subject in which he could look for exact answers. He was just an ordinary school boy. He was slow in learning to read and his handwriting was horrible.
At 14, Stephen knew he would study maths and physics. But his father discouraged him from studying maths because he thought it offered no jobs, except as a teacher. Stephen’s father wanted him to attend Oxford where he had studied. Oxford had no mathematics. So Stephen studied chemistry and physics and only a little mathematics. At the age of 17, Hawking went to Oxford to study natural science and to specialise in physics.
Plus One English Quest For A Theory Of Everything Summary Question 5.
Comment on Hawking’s life at 03(ford.
For about one year and a half, Hawking was lonely and bored at Oxford. He also did not try hard at his academics. But halfway through the second year, he began to enjoy Oxford.
Profile Of Stephen Hawking In English Plus One Question 6.
What opinion did Hawking’s peers at Oxford have about him?
Hawking became popular and was well-accepted among his peers. They remember him as lively, buoyant and adaptable. He wore his hair long. He was famous for his wit. He liked classical music and science fiction. He took part in sports.
Plus One English Chapter Quest For A Theory Of Everything Summary Question 7.
Cite an example to prove that Stephen Hawking was sharp-witted. Did his wit help him in any way?
Stephen Hawking had applied to do a Ph.D. at Cambridge while he was a student at Oxford . He was accepted on condition that he got a ‘First’ from Oxford. Hawking thought he could get through successfully. But as the examination came, his confidence failed. Hawking got only borderline marks between a first and a second. As he had only a borderline result, his examiners called him for an interview and asked him about his plans. He told the examiners boldly, “If I get a first, I shall go to Cambridge. If I receive a second,
I will remain at Oxford. So I expect that you will give me a first.’ He got his ‘First’ and he went to Cambridge. His wit helped him here to get what he wanted.
Plus One English Textbook Activity Answers Unit 1 Question 8.
Stephen’s first year at Cambridge was worse than that at 03dord. Why?
His first year at Cambridge was worse than that at Oxford. His poor mathematical background troubled him. He found general relativity extremely tough. There was even a bigger problem. During his 3rd year, he had started getting a bit careless. He had fallen once or twice for no apparent reason. Soon he had trouble tying his shoes and sometimes he had difficulty in talking.
Plus One English Notes Quest For A Theory Of Everything Question 9.
How did tragedy strike Hawking after his 21st birthday?
Shortly after his 21st birthday, in 1963, tragedy struck him. He contracted a rare disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for which there was no known cure. It caused a gradual disintegration of the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. He went into a deep depression. He did not know what to do and what his future would be.
Plus One English Chapter Quest For A Theory Of Everything Question Answers Question 10.
What drastic change came over Hawking after the diagnosis of the disease?
A drastic change came over Hawking after the diagnosis of the disease. He had many dreams. He said that his dreams were at that time very confused. Before his condition was diagnosed he was bored with life. But after he came out of hospital, he dreamt that he was going to be executed. He realized then that there were a lot of important things to do if he was given a reprieve – time to live for some more time. Hawking was getting some more time to live and life was precious.
Quest For A Theory Of Everything Summary Pdf Question 11.
What was Jane’s impression ofHawking?
Just before Hawking entered the hospital for tests, he met Jane Wilde at a New Year’s Party at St. Alban’s. She thought Hawking was very intelligent, eccentric and rather arrogant. But he was interesting and she liked his wit. She fell in love with him.
Quest For A Theory Of Everything Plus One Notes Question 12.
Write a note on the character of Jane.
Jane was a shy teenager with a strong faith in God. This faith was ingrained in her by her mother. She believed that good can come out of any adversity. When she met Hawking after his discharge from the hospital, he was in a sad state. She felt that he had lost his will to live and he was very confused. She was not put off by his physical or mental condition. Hawking liked her optimism and their friendship grew. They thought that together they could make something good.
For Stephen, it made a big difference. He applied for a research fellowship at Caius, one of the colleges of Cambridge University. In 1965, when he was 23, he received his fellowship at Caius. In July 1965, he married Jane. They had 3 children. In fact, it was Jane who gave moral support to Hawking to overcome his adversities and do something great for mankind.
Quest For A Theory Of Everything Questions And Answers Question 13.
Is Stephen Hawking really a great mind on par with the likes of Einstein and Newton? Justify your answer.
It is not yet time to make a verdict on the work of Stephen Hawking. Newton and Einstein are giants who rule the world of science. It is true that Hawking has said some significant things about the universe. He has asked significant questions but he has not provided adequate answers. Anybody can ask questions. Asking questions does not make a person a genius.
Hawking used to ask daring, unexpected and penetrating questions during the sessions involving some of the most famous and distinguished scientists in the world. That is how he earned his name as ‘a genius’ and as ‘another Einstein’. I don’t think his mind is on par with the likes of Newton and Einstein. Time may prove me wrong. But for the moment I stick to my answer.
Ferguson Higher Physics Ebook Download Question 14.
List the interesting facts dealt with Hawking’s book.
Where did the universe come from? Is it infinite? Does it have any boundaries? Will it come to an end? If so, how? Is there a complete theory of the universe and everything in it? Is there a beginning of time? Could time run back? The book begins by recounting the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein. His purpose in writing the book was to make science understandable to non-scientists.
Plus One Quest For A Theory Of Everything Notes Question 15.
What could have been the misgivings of Jane?
While on a trip to Switzerland, Hawking contracted pneumonia and was left on a life-support system. The doctors treating him suggested a tracheotomy operation which would remove his windpipe. It might save his life but he would never again be able to speak or make a vocal sound. Jane thought her husband might die with this operation. That is why she said, The future looks very bleak.’ Hawking would no longer breathe through his mouth and nose, but through a permanent hole made in his throat.
How could he overcome his difficulties after the tracheotomy operation?
Since Hawking could not speak, Walt Woltosz, a computer expert in California, sent him a programme he had developed. It was called the Equalizer. It would allow Hawking to select words from the screen and this way he could continue to do his work, although very slowly.
Mention some of the unique ideas and paradoxes put forward by Stephen Hawking.
Some of the unique ideas and paradoxes put forward by Stephen Hawking are :
- In science and with people, things are often not what they seem.
- Pieces that ought to fit together refuse to do so.
- You will learn that beginnings may be endings.
- Cruel circumstances can lead to happiness, although fame and success may not.
- Two great scientific theories taken together seem to give us nonsense.
- Empty space is not empty.
- Black holes are not black.
What was Hawking’s attitude to his disability? How do you estimate it in a wider social context?
He chose to ignore his difficulty. He expected others to adopt the same attitude. In the modern days, we call ‘disabled’ people ‘Differently Abled People’. A physical disability does not have to make you desperate and a victim of sympathy. People with physical disabilities have achieved marvels. Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the most famous American Presidents spent most of his working hours in a wheelchair and walked with leg braces and a cane, supported by others.
Now we have a blind play-back singer Bhagyalaksmi. There is also a blind music director named Afsal. Handicaps need not be looked upon as excuses to be lazy. With hard work, one can overcome his handicaps. Helen Keller – blind, deaf, and dumb – became world-famous because of her determination to succeed. And she did.
Activity – I (Writing)
Attempt an assessment of the personality of Hawking in a short paragraph.
Hawking was a man of determination and perseverance. When he was at Oxford, in his late teens, he was lively, buoyant, and adaptable. He wore his hair long. He was famous for his wit. He liked classical musical and was interested in sports. When he was in the 3rd year at Oxford he applied to do a Ph.D. at Cambridge. He was accepted on condition that he got a ‘First’ from Oxford. But during the examination he had only borderline marks between a first and a second.
The examiners summoned him and asked him about his plans. He told them bluntly, “If I get a first, I shall go to Cambridge. If I receive a second, I will remain at Oxford. So I expect that you will give me a first.” They gave him a First and he went to Cambridge. This shows how frank and open he was. When he was 21, he contracted a rare disease which caused disintegration of the nerve cells of his spinal cord and brain. He walked around with a cane, supporting himself against a wall.
His speech was impaired. But nothing stopped him from achieving what he wanted. It was this determination that attracted Jane Wilde whom he married. He lost his voice after a tracheotomy operation. But he continued working with an Equalizer, which helped him to choose words from a computer screen. He asked fundamental questions like where did the universe come from and whether it has boundaries. Is there a beginning of time? Could time run back? His book ‘A Brief History of Time’ contains a lot of paradoxes that will surprise us. He is often called another Einstein.
Activity – II (Timeline)
List the facts you have earned about Stephen Hawking, in chronological order, in the timeline given below:
2005 Release of a Book ‘A brief History of time
1988 Published a Brief History of Time
1984 Completing the Draft of the Book
1980 Inaugural lecture at Cockcroft Lecture Room
1980 Started writing a book about universe
1965 Received research fellowship at Caius
1965 Married Jane Wilde
1963 Gets the rare disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
1959 Goes to Oxford
1950 Decides to become a scientist
Now, look at the list you have made. What facts do the readers expect in a profile?
- Date of birth
- …………………….. etc
- Date of birth
- Parents and schooling
- Higher Education
- Turning Points in life
- Rare activities
- Things that make a person stand out
- The message he/she gives
Activity – III (Interview)
Read the excerpt from the interview of Stephen Hawking by Kitty Gail Ferguson. She interviews him to collect details for his biography. Find out Stephen’s responses from the profile and complete the interview.
Interviewer: Shortly after your 21st birthday, your doctors diagnosed that you had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare disease for which there is no known cure. How did you react to the diagnosis? How did you manage to cope with the situation?
Interviewee: My initial reaction was shock and disbelief. I went into a depression. I did not know what to do and what my future would be. But then I told myself that there was no point in spending time worrying about something that we can’t change. In English, there is a saying “What can’t be cured must be endured.” So I decided to live with my disease and continue working as best as I could.
Interviewer: What made you think that life was precious? Can you recollect any particular instance in your life that has become crucial?
Interviewee: I dreamt that I was going to be executed. Suddenly I realized that there were a lot of worthwhile things to do, if I were given some more time to live.
I wanted to do some good things before I died so that people would remember me even after my death.
I started thinking that life was precious. My meeting with Jane Wilde was crucial. She liked me in spite of my eccentricity and disease. Her optimism helped me a lot.
Interviewer: It is said that you wrote a book to make science understandable to non-scientists. Is that so?
Interviewee: Yes, that was my plan, I wanted even non-scientists know something about cosmology and the quantum theory. Everybody has heard about Einstein’s theory of relativity and his famous equation E = me2. But how many people know what it means? So I decided to write about science in a language understandable by the common man. But of course, you will find a lot of seeming paradoxes in my writings. But then life is full of paradoxes, isn’t it?
Now, prepare a set of questions, and conduct an interview with a person who has become successful in any field in your locality. You can identify people who became successful in any walk of life such as farming/entrepreneurship/ the civil services/competitive examinations, etc.
Mehboob Saithu, who is my neighbor, is a successful rice farmer. He produces around 50 tons of rice each year. Through his initiative, some uncultivated farms have been brought under cultivation. Here is an excerpt from an interview I had with him.
Interviewer: Mr. Mehboob, please tell us something about yourself.
Interviewee: You already know my name. My parents are Mr. Saithu and Mrs. Khadeeja. I am married and I have two children, a boy and a girl. My wife Kunjumol is a homemaker and she supports me in all my farming activities. My son is a student in Singapore, doing a degree in sound engineering and my daughter is studying for her MBA.
Interviewer: What are your educational qualifications?
Interviewee: I have only completed my Pre Degree Course. I was very reluctant to join college, although my father wanted m%Jo study further. But I refused to go to college. Instead, I started helping him in his electrical shop. The shop was running reasonably well at that time. I had a nice time in the shop as I could make some money for my needs.
Interviewer: Then how did you become a farmer?
Interviewee: I had an inborn desire to be a farmer. I love watching plants grow and produce. We had some fields which were not cultivated because my father thought agriculture was a loss because of high labour cost and low returns. Soon my father became very sick and a lot of money had to be spent on him. He was treated in different hospitals. As I was going round taking care of him, there was no proper supervision in the shop and slowly the business was running at a loss and those who bought things on credit did not pay up. The shop had to be closed down in due course. It was then that I turned my attention to farming.
Interviewer: Are you happy with farming?
Interviewee: It is a difficult question to answer. Indian agriculture, as you know, is a gamble on monsoons. A good harvest depends on many factors. Once we sow the seeds till the harvest is marketed we are worried. Questions like ‘Will there be enough rain?’, ‘Will there be too much rain?’ etc. keep worrying us. But once the harvest is in the barn, we are happy. On the whole, I would say I am happy. I am able to produce food for others. I am able to give jobs to many people and this way I am doing my part for the development of the nation.
Interviewer? What are your future plans?
Interviewee: I am not a very ambitious man. Soon my daughter will complete her MBA. I have to get her married. My son will have his engineering degree and he will have, hopefully, a good job. Then he too should get married. Then it would be time for me to rest a little and spend my time with my grandchildren. I hope, Insha Allah, to succeed in my plans.
Interviewer: Thank you Mr. Mehboob for talking to me.
Interviewee: Thank you, too!
Activity – IV : (Profile)
Using the responses you received from the person you interviewed, prepare his/her profile.
Mehboob Saithu was born on 10 May 1963. His parents were Mrs. Saithu and Mrs. Khadeeja. When he was 5, he was sent to Little Flower Convent School Irinjakaluda. There he studied until class IV. Then he was sent to Don Bosco School, Irinjalakuda. From there he completed his SSLC in 1982. Later he went to Christ College, Irinjalakuda. He completed his Pre Degree Course there.
After his education, he joined his father in the Electrical Shop to assist him in the business. The shop did well for some years. When he was 27, he married Kunjumol, who comes from a wealthy family from Ernakulam. Their first child was born in 1990 and their daughter in 1992.
By the time Mehboob was 40, the shop ran into problems because of the grave illness of his father. His father had to be shuttled from hospital to hospital for better treatment. It took away a lot of time and also money. In the absence of proper supervision, the shop went into problems as those who got things on credit refused to pay up. Finally the shop had to be closed down.
It was then Mehboob turned his attention to farming. He had some agricultural fields which were lying uncultivated. He started cultivating them and now he is fully into farming. He derives satisfaction in two ways. He is producing food for many people and at the same time he is able to give jobs to some people. This way he is doing his bit in the development of the nation.
Mehboob is not a very ambitious man. Soon his daughter will complete her MBA. He wants to get her married. His son will have his engineering degree and he will have, hopefully, a good job. Then he also should marry. Then it would be time for Mr. Mehboob to rest a little and spend his time with grandchildren.
Activity – V: Speech
Read the following statements from the profile of Stephen Hawking:
‘Shortly after I came out of hospital, I dreamt that I was going to be executed. I suddenly realized that there were a lot of worthwhile things I could do.’ Can you find out similar incidents that happened in the lives of other great people (such as Helen Keller, Wilma Rudolf, Valentina Tereshkova, etc.). Prepare a short speech on any one of them so as to deliver it before the school assembly.
My dear teachers and students,
Sometimes people lose their faith because they have some handicaps and they feel they can’t become famous because of their handicaps. But we have so many examples in history which prove that handicaps need not make people desperate. They can excel in some fields and become more famous than even normal people. Today I will talk to you about Helen Keller, who achieved international fame although she was deaf and blind. But she served as an inspiration for other people with disabilities.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, the daughter of well-to-do parents. When 19 months old, Helen was stricken with an acute illness that left her deaf and blind. In a short time she forgot the few words she knew and became silent. She made use of signs to get what she wanted. On the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor, who was also a teacher of deaf people, Keller’s paints got a teacher named Anne Mansfield Sullivan (later Macy). Helen and Anne worked together until Anne’s death in 1936.
Anne taught Helen to read and write using the Braille system. When Keller was ten, she began to relearn how to speak. At first this seemed impossible, but Anne discovered that Keller could learn sounds by placing her fingers on her teacher’s larynx and sensing the vibrations. The moving account of how Anne taught her to speak is told in Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life (1902).
In 1900, Keller entered Radcliffe College. Four years later Keller graduated with honors to worldwide acclaim and decided to devote her life to helping blind and deaf people. Through her essays and articles in major magazines and newspapers, Keller explained the problems encountered by people who are deaf and blind and the responsibilities of society. In addition to The Story of My Life, she published Optimism, or My Key to Life (1903), The World I Live In (1908), and Out of the Dark (1913). Helen Keller achieved fame in spite of severe handicaps and she should be an inspiration to all of us.
Activity – VI: (Group Discussion)
The Group Discussion (GD) is an important tool for assessing a candidate’s personality. The GD has become a part of the selection process for admission to any reputed institution.
Skills judged in GDs :
- Your communication abilities
- Your behavior and interaction with others
- How open-minded you are
- Your listening skills
- The way you present your ideas.
- Your leadership and decision-making capacity
- Your knowledge of the subject and your analytical skills
- Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
- Your attitude and confidence
Here is a model for a Group Discussion:
Topic: “Commercialization of violence and sex in the media increases the crime rate.”
A : Hello friends, we are going to talk about the issue of commercialization of violence and sex and how the media increases the crime rate in the society by sensationalizing things. You may have different views about it.
B : Friends, I do say that the media is helping in the increase of crime rates by making sensational reports of violence and sex. The front pages of many newspapers and magazines are full of gory details of violence and sex. Looking at the newspapers, someone may be forced to think that only two things happen in the country – violence and sex.
A : I agree with B. Look at some of the newspaper headlines. You see a headline: WAR BREAKS OUT. You are anxious to know where and why. And then you see it is just an ODI (One Day International) between India and Pakistan. Look at some of our cinemas. Most of them are a mixture of songs, dances, sex and violence. Even to sell a particular brand of the umbrella, they will show Sania Mirza in her tennis shorts! Money has become God.
C : The problem with the media is that they have a great effect on the youth. What they see in films and on TV influences them. Didn’t we hear the case of a boy who imitated Superman and jumped from the top of a building and died?
D : I’m afraid the media often misleads people. Biased reporting makes people take sides. Look at the Marad incident that happened in Kerala. One group of media supported one community and the other group supported the other. Truths are distorted. Media should be used to promote fellow-feeling, love and tolerance.
E : I’m afraid there is too much negative criticism against the media. In the media also we see the villain getting punished in the end. So actually there is no encouragement in the media to be villainous. In fact, it warns people not to do bad things. It reinforces our culture.
F : I believe that the media culture has a positive impact on society. The number of media users has increased greatly and the media make people aware of the things happening around them and also in the world. Thus it serves a good purpose.
G : We can’t think of a life without the media. The only thing is that we should use it positively. There is no point in criticizing the media for all the ills rampant in the society.
Activity – VII (Cohesive devices)
In the profile, we see the use of words like ‘n7oreover’, ‘never there ‘however etc. These words show the relationship between sentences. They hold the text together. Such words are known as ‘cohesive devices Identify a few such expressions/words and complete the following:
Here is a list of cohesive devices used for different functions.
|Reason/Cause & Effect||because of, as, since, due to, owing to, for, in order to|
|Result||so, as a result, therefore, consequently, so that|
|Purpose Contrast/Qualify||in order to, so, so that, so as to even though, but, however, while, nevertheless, yet, although, in spite of, despite, though, whereas, still|
|Contradicting Adding||on the contrary, even so, in spite of, despite and, too, moreover, also, furthermore, in addition to, besides|
|Illustrating||for instance, for example, in particular|
|Comparing||similarly, in the same way, likewise, like, equally|
|Generalising||on the hole, in some cases, in general, in all, many, most, broadly speaking|
|Sequencing/Structuring||Firstly, secondly, lastly, first of all, finally, to begin with, to start with, meanwhile, then, after, subsequently|
Choose the correct cohesive device from the box given to complete the sentences. Each one is to be used only once.
1. I had a terrible day at work and lost my umbrella too. _________ I spoke to that nice guy who works in the coffee shop at last!
2. Television turns people into lazy couch potatoes. _________, there are some educational programmes on.
3. _________, 1 would like to welcome you all to the conference today.
4. _________ the film was a little boring, we still had a nice evening out.
5. I’ve always known Caroline as a miser. _________, she lent me 1000 yesterday without my having to ask twice!
6. I got up at 9 o’clock yesterday and had a cold shower _________, I had breakfast and left for work.
7. My brother works ¡n a large office _________ I work on my own at home.
8. Why do you think I don’t want to go out tonight? _________ I would be delighted to get out of the house.
9. You should participate in the school youth festival as it gives you a chance to meet many people _________, It gives you an opportunity to showcase your talents.
10. I don’t want to go to the football game. Football bores me and don’t want to pay 40 fora ticket. _________, look at the weather! All that rain!
1. At least
2. On the other hand
Activity – VIII:
Collocation “Stephen Hawking has overcome his crippling disease to become the supernova of world physics.” In this sentence the underlined words go together. In other words crippling collocates with the disease. In other words, we can say that words that are used together and have a special meaning are called collocations. For example ‘strong tea’.
Given below are a set of collocations that can be used to describe success.
|Crowning achievement/dramatic improvement/’ made a breakthrough/brilliant success/enjoy the fruits of hard work/brought out the best/won the respect of/remarkable achievement|
Arun’s teacher is talking about his merit and achievement to his parents while giving the end-of-term report. Imagine what the teacher would say, and complete the sentences using suitable collocations from those given in the box above. Arun has made a breakthrough in Maths this year, doing excellent work compared to last year. It is, of course, a remarkable achievement on his part. This year has seen a dramatic improvement in Arun’s English. His crowning achievement is his performance in the school’s staging of ‘Othello’. He has found some effective ways of working with natural materials this year, and his self-portrait is a brilliant success. He is now able to enjoy the fruits of hard work. Playing for the school team has certainly brought out the best in him and he rightly won the respect of all his teammates.
Read and Enjoy
We have read aboyt a few great personalities and identified some off the qualities of greatness. “If is a poem with a message. It suggests the idea of conditional fulfillment. Here the poet describes the qualities of the perfect man.
Quest for a Theory of Everything (Profile) About the Author:
Kitty Gail Ferguson is a science writer, lecturer and professional musician. She was written many science books and biographies. Her works are known for their details and accuracy. She is known for her simple explanation of complicated scientific principles.
Quest For A Theory Of Everything Summary
– Kitty Gail Ferguson
On 29 April 1980, in the Cockcroft Lecture Room, many scientists and university dignitaries were seated. The occasion was the inaugural lecture by a new Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Stephen Hawking, who was a mathematician and physicist. He was 38 years old.
The title of the lecture was “Is the End in Sight for Theoretical Physics?’ His listeners were surprised when Hawkins said it was. He invited them to join him in a sensational escape through time and space to find the Holy Grail of science – the theory that explains the universe and everything that happens in it. (The Holy Grail is the cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper.)
Stephen Hawking sat silently in a wheelchair as one of his students read his lecture to the audience. Judging by his appearance, Hawking did not look the kind of person to lead any adventure. Hawking was bom on 8 January 1942, in Oxford, England. It was exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo, the father of modern science. Frank and Isobel Hawking, Stephen’s parents, were not wealthy. But they believed in the value of education. So they wanted to send Stephen to Westminster Public School, which is in the heart of London. Unfortunately, Stephen was ill at the time of the scholarship examination for Westminster. So, he attended the local St. Alban’s school.
By the time he was 8, he was thinking of becoming a scientist. His father encouraged him to study medicine, but Stephen found biology too imprecise. He wanted a subject that gave exact answers and so he could get into the root of things.
Stephen was not a miracle boy. He was just an ordinary English boy. He was slow in learning to read and his handwriting was bad. He was ranked somewhere in the middle of the class. In his defence Stephen Hawking now says, ‘It was a very bright class’, meaning he was not among the top students because all the students in the class were very bright!
At 14, Stephen decided to study mathematics and physics. His father was not happy because he said there were no jobs in mathematics except teaching. Moreover he wanted his son to attend Oxford where he himself had studied, but Oxford offered no mathematics. So Stephen followed his father’s advice and studied chemistry, physics and only a little mathematics in preparation for the entrance to Oxford. He did well in physics and was accepted there. In 1959, at 17, Hawking went to Oxford to study natural science and to specialize in physics. He joined University College, the oldest at Oxford, founded in 1249 AD. His father had studied there.
For about one year, Hawking was lonely and bored. He did not feel any inspiration to do well in his academics. But by the middle of 2nd year, he began enjoying Oxford. He became popular and was well accepted by his peers. He was lively, buoyant and adaptable. He had long hair. He was famous for his wit. He liked classical music and science fiction. He took part in sports.
By the end of the 3rd year, however, things were bad for Hawking. He selected theoretical physics as his specialty. He had then applied to do a Ph.D. at Cambridge. He was accepted on the condition that he got a ‘First’ from Oxford. Hawking thought he could get through successfully. But as the examination came, his confidence failed. Hawking got only borderline marks between a first and a second.
As he had only a borderline result, his examiners called him for an interview and asked him about his plans. He told the examiners boldly, “If I get a first, I shall go to Cambridge. If I receive a second, I will remain at Oxford. So I expect that you will give me a first.’ He got his ‘First’ and he went to Cambridge.
His first year at Cambridge was worse than that at Oxford. His poor mathematical background troubled him. He found general relativity extremely tough. There was even a bigger problem. During his 3rd year, he had started getting a bit careless. He had fallen once or twice for no apparent reason. Soon he had trouble tying his shoes and sometimes he had difficulty in talking.
In 1963, shortly after his 21st birthday, he got a rare disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for which there was no known cure. It caused a gradual disintegration of the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. He went into a deep depression. He did not know what to do and what his future would be.
He said that his dreams at that time were very confused. Before his condition was diagnosed he was bored with life. But after he came out of hospital, he dreamt that he was going to be executed. He realized then that there were a lot of important things to do if he was given a reprieve – more time to live.
Another recurring dream he used to have was sacrificing his life to save others. If he was going to die, he thought, he should do some good things. The doctors thought his condition would stabilize but it went from bad to worse. They told him that he had only 2 years to live.
Two years passed. The disease slowed down. He did not die. He said that although a cloud was hanging over his future, he was enjoying the present more than before. Hawking was getting some more time to live and life was precious.
Just before Hawking entered the hospital for tests, he met Jane Wilde at a New Year’s Party at St. Alban’s. She thought Hawking was very intelligent, eccentric and rather arrogant. But he was interesting and she liked his wit. When Jane met him after his discharge from the hospital, he was in a sad state. She felt that he had lost his will to live and he was very confused. She was not put off by his physical or mental condition. She was a shy teenager with a strong faith in God. This faith was ingrained in her by her mother. Jane believed that good can come out of any adversity.
Hawking liked her optimism and their friendship grew. They thought that together they could make something good. For Stephen it made a big difference. He applied for a research fellowship at Caius, once of the colleges of Cambridge University. In 1965, when he was 23, he received his fellowship at Caius. In July, 1965, he married Jane.
People remember Hawking moving about in the University with a cane, supporting himself against the wall. He spoke with a slight speech impediment. People remember his brashness in sessions in which some of the most distinguished scientist spoke. While other young researchers kept silent, Hawking daringly asked unexpected questions. He knew what he was talking about. His reputation as ‘a genius’ and ‘another Einstein’ began then.
In 1980, a practical need for funds made him start a new enterprise. It was to have a far-reaching impact on the Hawkings and others in the world. He thought of writing a book about the universe. He wanted to write about the most interesting questions that had made him study cosmology and quantum theory. Where did the universe come from? Is it infinite? Does it have any boundaries? Will it come to an end? If so, how? Is there a complete theory of the universe and everything in it? Is there a beginning of time? Could time run back? The book begins by recounting the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein. His purpose in writing the book was to make science understandable to non-scientists.
He completed the first draft in 1984. As he was revising it, he went to Switzerland. There he caught pneumonia and was on a life-supporting system. Doctors suggested a tracheotomy operation.’This would result in the removal of his windpipe. It might save his life, but he would never again speak or even make a vocal sound. Jane, with reluctance, consented to the surgery.
Hawking could no longer breathe through his mouth and nose. So, a permanent opening was made in his throat. After many weeks of intensive care, he went home to join Jane and their three children. He was too weak and ill to continue his research. Walt Woltosz, a computer expert in California, sent him a programme he had developed. It was called the Equalizer. It would allow Hawking to select words from the screen.
Hawking thought he would not be able to complete his book. With the support of his student Brian Whitt, ‘A Brief History of Time was published in 1988. In September 2005, an abridged version of the original book was published. This version was updated to include the new issues that had arisen due to further scientific developments.
In the book we can see a number of paradoxes:
a) In science and with people, things are often not what they seem.
b) Pieces that ought to fit together refuse to do so.
c) You will learn that beginnings may be endings.
d) Cruel circumstances can lead to happiness, although fame and success may not.
e) Two great scientific theories taken together seem to give us nonsense.
f) Empty space is not empty.
g) Black holes are not black.
It is a miracle that Hawking was able to achieve everything he has and he is still alive. When we experience his intelligence and humor, we tend to take his unusual mode of communication and his terrible physical problems very lightly. That is exactly what he wants. He chooses to ignore the difficulty and he expects others to have the same attitude. Hawking has overcome his crippling disease to become a shining star of world physics.
Quest For A Theory Of Everything Glossary