Stephen Hawking (b. 1942) is a theoretical physicist noted for his work on cosmology, black holes and his popular written works. He is the author of several books about his work and physics in general, the most renowned being the popular science classic A Brief History of Time, published in 1988. Although successful as a book, it was widely considered to be impenetrable, and he wrote A Briefer History of Time as a sop to public understanding. Hawkings' recent book, The Grand Design, elaborated on the recent work in M-Theory and the origin of Universe. Hawking is possibly one of the best-known scientists alive today and his overall ubiquitous fame may well rival Einstein, Newton and Darwin, thanks to his theory which described how black holes would eventually dissipate through a method called, weirdly enough, Hawking radiation.
He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University from 1979 to 2009, a post that has been held by some seriously important scientists since the mid 17th century. He retired from the position in September 2009, to be succeeded by string theorist Michael Green.
 The famous disability
While still studying for his PhD, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig's Disease. After a pneumonia attack he was rendered unable to speak and famously conducts conversations from his motorised wheelchair using a speech synthesiser, using only his cheek to operate the predictive text machine, and sometimes taking many minutes to answer questions. Ironically, although he is British, he speaks using a synthesiser with an American accent. He initially wanted an upgrade to a British accent (which the manufacturers would have made for him), but the technology was slow to advance to that stage, and he now prefers his current American one, having not heard anything he likes better, and now being identified virtually worldwide with the voice the synthesiser has provided him for years.
 Religious beliefs?
Unfortunately, Hawking has become a favourite target of quote mining by creationists because of his tendency to use the word God in his writings as well as numerous references to "the Creator" with respect to his writings on the Big Bang. This is, of course, open to multiple interpretations; that this is a reference to a theistic deity, or it is intended to be a metaphor representing the natural laws of the universe (i.e., Spinoza's God). His question about whether the Creator had any choice in when to create the universe and his assurances that information cannot pass through the singularity of the Big Bang are indicative of deism.
Hawking is therefore often used by creationists as an example of a believing scientist. This is the logical fallacy known as an argument from authority (i.e., "If an intelligent person such as Stephen Hawking believes in God, it must be true"). Essentially, quoting Hawking - rightly or wrongly - as a believer proves nothing. Whatever the truth of his beliefs, Hawking has often been quiet, or at least non-explicit, about religious and philosophical beliefs and doesn't voice them openly unlike others such as Richard Dawkins or Michael Behe. After his retirement from Cambridge, however, he did become more explicitly opposed to design in interviews and print. With the release of a new book entitled The Grand Design in 2010, Hawking downplayed the necessity of a creator, citing the increasing discoveries of exoplanets as evidence against the idea of design. In a 2010 interview with Diane Sawyer, Hawking more firmly established his views on a separation of science and religion stating that:
“”There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.
His comments on people inventing a personal god and interaction, as well as stating about defining the laws of physics as God, seem to indicate a stronger belief toward Spinoza's God.
 In popular culture
In animated form, Hawking has made guest appearances on The Simpsons, Dilbert, Futurama, and Family Guy, surely the high point of any career. In person, he has appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation and also makes an appearance in a popular YouTube tribute to Carl Sagan. His name, likeness and voice have also been used in tribute by science rapper MC Hawking, whom the real Hawking is quite amused by, likening it to old skool satire show Spitting Image. He's even done a British insurance comparison website advert.
 See also
- ↑ Wikipedia - The Lucasian Professor of Mathematics
- ↑ Telegraph - Professor Stephen Hawking retires from Lucasian professorship
- ↑ The Register - Cambridge string theorist to succeed Stephen Hawking
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- ↑ See this example
- ↑ BBC News - Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe
- ↑ ABC News - Stephen Hawking on Religion: 'Science Will Win'
- ↑ This clip is all win
- ↑ LA Times - Check It! (scan)
- ↑ No, seriously. That guy's been annoying Britain for years, by the way.
- ↑ The Independent - An unexpected visitor illuminates the brief history of Tiger Tiger
- ↑ For the lulz.