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My Brief History

Cover of My Brief History

My Brief History

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Stephen Hawking, the brilliant cosmologist and author of the ten-million-copy bestseller A Brief History of Time, at last tells the story of his own life. This concise memoir covers Hawking's postwar...
Stephen Hawking, the brilliant cosmologist and author of the ten-million-copy bestseller A Brief History of Time, at last tells the story of his own life. This concise memoir covers Hawking's postwar...
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Description-
  • Stephen Hawking, the brilliant cosmologist and author of the ten-million-copy bestseller A Brief History of Time, at last tells the story of his own life. This concise memoir covers Hawking's postwar childhood in London, his undergraduate years at Oxford, his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig's disease at the age of twenty-one, and his transformation into the explorer and explainer of the universe that we all know today. Written with wit, humility, and warmth, My Brief History candidly examines a life well lived, including insight into Hawking's marriages and family, as well as a portrait of his intellectual evolution, adding up to an unprecedented glimpse of what it feels like to be one of the most world-changing people of our time.


    From the Hardcover edition.

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    9780345535283|excerpt

    Hawking / MY BRIEF HISTORY

    1

    Childhood

    My father, Frank, came from a line of tenant farmers in Yorkshire, England. His grandfather--my great-grandfather John Hawking--had been a wealthy farmer, but he had bought too many farms and had gone bankrupt in the agricultural depression at the beginning of this century. His son Robert--my grandfather--tried to help his father but went bankrupt himself. Fortunately, Robert's wife owned a house in Boroughbridge in which she ran a school, and this brought in a small amount of income. They thus managed to send their son to Oxford, where he studied medicine.

    My father won a series of scholarships and prizes, which enabled him to send money back to his parents. He then went into research in tropical medicine, and in 1937 he traveled to East Africa as part of his research. When the war began, he made an overland journey across Africa and down the Congo River to get a ship back to England, where he volunteered for military service. He was told, however, that he was more valuable in medical research.

    My mother was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the third of eight children of a family doctor. The eldest was a girl with Down syndrome, who lived separately with a caregiver until she died at the age of thirteen. The family moved south to Devon when my mother was twelve. Like my father's family, hers was not well off. Nevertheless, they too managed to send my mother to Oxford. After Oxford, she had various jobs, including that of inspector of taxes, which she did not like. She gave that up to become a secretary, which was how she met my father in the early years of the war.

    I was born on January 8, 1942, exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo. I estimate, however, that about two hundred thousand other babies were also born that day. I don't know whether any of them was later interested in astronomy.

    I was born in Oxford, even though my parents were living in London. This was because during World War II, the Germans had an agreement that they would not bomb Oxford and Cambridge, in return for the British not bombing Heidelberg and Göttingen. It is a pity that this civilized sort of arrangement couldn't have been extended to more cities.

    We lived in Highgate, in north London. My sister Mary was born eighteen months after me, and I'm told I did not welcome her arrival. All through our childhood there was a certain tension between us, fed by the narrow difference in our ages. In our adult life, however, this tension has disappeared, as we have gone different ways. She became a doctor, which pleased my father.

    My sister Philippa was born when I was nearly five and better able to understand what was happening. I can remember looking forward to her arrival so that there would be three of us to play games. She was a very intense and perceptive child, and I always respected her judgment and opinions. My brother, Edward, was adopted much later, when I was fourteen, so he hardly entered my childhood at all. He was very different from the other three children, being completely non-academic and non-intellectual, which was probably good for us. He was a rather difficult child, but one couldn't help liking him. He died in 2004 from a cause that was never properly determined; the most likely explanation is that he was poisoned by fumes from the glue he was using for renovations in his flat.

    My earliest memory is of standing in the nursery of Byron House School in Highgate and crying my head off. All around me, children were playing with what seemed like wonderful toys, and I wanted to join in. But I was only two and a half, this was the first...

About the Author-
  • Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for thirty years. He is the author of several books, including the worldwide publishing phenomenon A Brief History of Time, A Briefer History of Time (written with Leonard Mlodinow), The Universe in a Nutshell, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time, and the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universes.

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