Why Professor Stephen Hawking never won the Nobel Prize
The British physicist and black-hole theorist Stephen Hawking won accolades from his peers for having one of the most brilliant minds in science, but the coveted Nobel Prize always eluded him.
Hawking was born exactly 300 years after the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei in Oxford, England, on Jan 8, 1942. While he was a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as LOU Gehrig’s Disease, after which he was given two years to live. The disease left Hawking wheelchair-bound and paralysed. He was able to move only a few fingers on one hand and was completely dependent on others or on technology for virtually everything — bathing, dressing, eating, even speech.
Even though he discovered ‘Black Holes can die’, he was never acknowledged for it. Why was it so?
He redefined cosmology by proposing that black holes emit radiation and later evaporate. He even showed that universe which was believed to be limitless had a beginning. He showed how Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity breaks down when space and time are traced back to the Big Bang.
Hawking was a deep thinker — a theorist — and his musings about black holes and cosmology have yet to get the lock-down evidence that accompanies the physics prizes, his fellow scientists said.
“The Nobel prize is not given to the smartest person or even the one who makes the greatest contribution to science. It’s given to discovery,” said California Institute of Technology physicist Sean Carroll.
The Nobel committee looks for proof, not big ideas.
Hawking has often been compared to Albert Einstein, who was a Nobel laureate. But Einstein’s Nobel wasn’t for his famed theory of general relativity. It was for describing the photoelectric effect, only after it was verified by Robert Millikan, said Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb.
Here are few things you need to know about Stephen Hawking:
- He went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein.
- His first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the entire universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.
- Hawking’s seminal contributions continued through the 1980s. The theory of cosmic inflation holds that the fledgling universe went through a period of terrific expansion.
- In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations – tiny variations in the distribution of matter – might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe.
- He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009, a position previously held by Isaac Newton in 1663.
- Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
- His book, ‘A Brief History of Time’ rocketed him to stardom. Published for the first time in 1988, the title made the Guinness Book of Records after it stayed on the Sunday Times bestsellers list for an unprecedented 237 weeks. It sold 10 million copies and was translated into 40 different languages.
- Hawking won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Fundamental Physics Prize.
- Hawking was the subject for the movie The Theory of Everything, released in 2014.
- He also performed several cameos in the US Comedy series The Big Bang Theory.
The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar.
In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.