On this day in 1942, Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, researcher, and author, was born in Oxford, England. He has left a lasting impression on the scientific community and the world, and has received awards including the Albert Einstein Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Special Fundamental Physics Prize.
His achievements include significant research - alongside Roger Penrose - on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity; the theoretical prediction that black holes produce radiation (later named Hawking radiation); a vocal supporter of the many-worlds interpretation (which postulates that all possible alternative histories and futures are real); and an author of academic books including A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design.
Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease, a rapidly deteriorating condition that left him paralyzed and forced to communicate through a speech generating device. He has often acted as a role model for other people suffering from disabilities, and has lectured on the subject and participated in fundraising activities.
Over the years, Hawking has continuously underscored the importance of scientists. As recently as 2011, he remarked, "Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. And new theories lead us to a new and very different picture of the universe and our place in it."
Photo: President Obama talks with Stephen Hawking before a 2009 ceremony in which he is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Wikipedia (CC)