Professor Stephen Hawking

Credited with being the first person to truly bring the mechanics of cosmology to the masses, Professor Stephen Hawking CBE is probably as well known for his electronically generated voice as he is for his theories on black holes and his attempts to link general relativity and quantum theory.

Some might say that Professor Hawking’s destiny was already mapped out for him; being born in Oxford, 300 years to the day after the Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei died. Hawking went to Cambridge to study physics, which went against his father’s wishes for him to study medicine there. Despite not really working that hard at university, the young Hawking graduated with a first class honours degree.

After gaining his PhD, Stephen became a research fellow in astronomy at Cambridge before switching departments in 1973 to Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, where in 1979 he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics - a post previously held by Sir Isaac Newton. Hawking went on to show that time began with the Big Bang and ended in black holes, a theory that proved the need to link both Einstein's theory of general relativity and quantum theory. This work also implied that the universe had no boundaries in time, and as such, that the beginnings of the universe were governed entirely by the laws of science. Sorry God.

However, it was in 1991 that Stephen Hawking shot to international fame with his book A Brief History of Time, that put cosmological concepts such as black holes, superstring theory and the Big Bang into language that the common man could understand, with the use of diagrams and, surprisingly for such a book (and hence its success), just one equation – E=mc2. The book became an instant best seller and has sold over nine million copies in many languages.

However, it is Stephen Hawking's illness, motor neurone disease, that has made his achievements even more incredible in the eyes of many, although somewhat characteristically, not in his own. Hawking was first diagnosed with the condition when he was twenty-one, and today he is almost completely paralysed, and has to operate his predictive text activated voice synthesizer by using a muscle in his cheek – the last part of his body he can move.

Despite the pressure of his work and illness, Professor Hawking has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he is something of a ladies' man and has managed to get through two wives and produce three children. Horny Hawking also celebrated his sixty-first birthday in London's Spearmint Rhino 'gentlemen's club', and when visiting China in 2006 said: "I like Chinese culture, Chinese food and above all Chinese women. They are beautiful."

Professor Stephen Hawking CBE has managed to achieve an awful lot in the face of incredible odds. Despite thinking on a higher plane to most of us, he has shown with his straight-talking and a bespectacled eye for the ladies, that he has not lost the common touch.

Professor Hawking CBE, salutes you Sir.