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STEPHEN HAWKING: MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE. Part 1_10.

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Uploaded on Jan 21, 2011

Stephen William Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 to Dr. Frank Hawking, a research biologist, and Isobel Hawking. He had two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward. Though Hawking's parents were living in North London, they moved to Oxford while his mother was pregnant with Stephen, desiring a safer location for the birth of their first child. (London was under attack at the time by the Luftwaffe.) According to Hawking, a German V-2 missile struck only a few streets away.

After Hawking was born, the family moved back to London, where his father headed the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research. In 1950, Hawking and his family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire, where he attended St Albans High School for Girls from 1950 to 1953. (At that time, boys could attend the Girls' school until the age of ten.) From the age of eleven, he attended St Albans School, where he was a good, but not exceptional, student. When asked later to name a teacher who had inspired him, Hawking named his mathematics teacher Dikran Tahta. He maintains his connection with the school, giving his name to one of the four houses and to an extracurricular science lecture series. He has visited it to deliver one of the lectures and has also granted a lengthy interview to pupils working on the school magazine, The Albanian.

Hawking was always interested in science. Inspired by his mathematics teacher, he originally wanted to study the subject at university. However, Hawking's father wanted him to apply to University College, Oxford, where his father had attended. As University College did not have a mathematics fellow at that time, it would not accept applications from students who wished to read that discipline. Hawking therefore applied to read natural sciences, in which he gained a scholarship. Once at University College, Hawking specialised in physics. His interests during this time were in thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum mechanics. His physics tutor, Robert Berman, later said in The New York Times Magazine: It was only necessary for him to know that something could be done, and he could do it without looking to see how other people did it. He didn't have very many books, and he didn't take notes. Of course, his mind was completely different from all of his contemporaries.

Hawking was passing, but his unimpressive study habits resulted in a final examination score on the borderline between first and second class honours, making an "oral examination" necessary. Berman said of the oral examination: And of course the examiners then were intelligent enough to realize they were talking to someone far more clever than most of themselves.

After receiving his B.A. degree at Oxford in 1962, he stayed to study astronomy. He decided to leave when he found that studying sunspots, which was all the observatory was equipped for, did not appeal to him and that he was more interested in theory than in observation. He left Oxford for Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he engaged in the study of theoretical astronomy and cosmology.

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