Hawking (co-author: The Grand Design, 2010 etc.) briefly examines his life and his well-earned celebrity status—“partly because scientists, apart from Einstein, are not widely known rock stars, and partly because I fit the stereotype of a disabled genius.”
Although he is now almost completely immobilized by the ravages of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), the author looks back on his life with “quiet satisfaction,” with both his personal life and also due to his major contributions to understanding the relationship between the origins of our universe and the existence of black holes. He writes convincingly of the past 50 years: “It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics.” He describes his early fascination with electric trains and the complex board games that he invented as early manifestations of his drive to understand how systems work and how to control them. Just as he was beginning his doctoral work at Cambridge, he was diagnosed with ALS and given only two years to live. Until that time, his academic career had been unremarkable, and he admits to affecting a typical student pose at the time: being bored with life. Eventually, though, his life took on a new zest, especially after he became engaged to his first wife. By 1979, when their third child was born, he had made his mark with a series of groundbreaking discoveries, and he occupied the prestigious position of Cambridge's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (a chair originally held by Isaac Newton). His first popular work on cosmology, A Brief History of Time (1988), became a widely translated, global best-seller.
Hawking's candid explanation of how his ideas about the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes have evolved ends with intriguing hints on the current direction of his thinking.