On March 14, one of the world’s most-loved and distinguished astrophysicists, Stephen Hawking died in Cambridge, UK at the age of 76. A globally-renowned theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, he leaves behind a rich legacy of research on black holes and relativity.
Educated at Oxford and Cambridge universities, Hawking was diagnosed as being afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, a debilitating motor neuron disease when he was 21. Despite being confined to a wheelchair and bereft of speech capability, he devised a communication system using a touch pad computer and voice synthesiser.
A prolific author who wrote several deeply researched academic texts, he also co-authored several books for children with his daughter Lucy. Here’s a shortlist that will make great summer reading for children and young adults.
George and the Unbreakable Code and Other Stories (Doubleday Books, 2014)
Co-written by Hawking and his daughter Lucy, this is one of a series of illustrated children’s books which provide the “secret keys to the universe” to young readers and explains the Big Bang theory to children.
The plot centres on George and his best friend Annie, who are space adventurers. Other books in the series include George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt, George’s Secret Key to the Universe, George and the Big Bang, and George and the Blue Moon.
My Brief History (Bantam Books, 2013)
This is Stephen Hawking’s inspiring memoir, suitable for teenage children. In this autobiography Hawking recounts his childhood, his evolution into a scientist, his fight with his debilitating condition and how his belief that he would die young made him work harder.
Featuring rare photographs, this memoir details his childhood as an inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him Einstein. Hawkins wrote this book using a device that translated his thoughts by tracking cheek muscle movements under his eye.
On the Shoulders of Giants (Running Press, 2002)
This book features short biographies of the world’s greatest astronomers and physicists including Einstein, Copernicus, Newton, among others. Hawking succinctly explains their huge impact on shaping modern science. It’s an informative introduction to the world’s great scientists and their work.
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (Bantam, 1993)
This best-selling 1994 collection includes a mix of personal and scientific essays.
In this early book, Hawking leads readers into space exploration, starting from how stars die and collapse under their own weight, to his favourite topic — black holes.
Words of wisdom
Before his death, Stephen Hawking gave his children three bits of advice:
1. Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
2. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.
3. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is rare and don’t throw it away.