The British theoretical physicist Stephen William Hawking, b.
Jan. 8, 1942, is a leading figure in modern cosmology. While
studying physics and mathematics at the universities of Oxford
and Cambridge, Hawking learned that he had the degenerative
disorder of the nervous system known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Obtaining his doctorate in 1966,
he set out to link quantum mechanics and relativity, the two
major theories of modern physics, by developing a quantum theory
of gravity. Hawking's ongoing work indicates that quantum theory
supports the model of the universe known as inflationary theory.
His speculations include the existence of black holes no larger
than elementary particles, and multiple universes linked by tiny
quantum fluctuations in space that he calls "wormholes." In 1988,
Hawking published a nontechnical explanation of his work called A
Brief History of Time.