( Stephen Hawking’s memoir A Brief History is a slim volume, expensively produced, lavishly illustrated and a pure delight to read. Based upon this was the Oscar-winning film, The Theory of Everything, where the lead actor Eddie Redmayne won the Best Male Actor Award 2014. I am reproducing an extract from the book.)
Since a Brief History of Time, I have written other books to explain science to the wider public: Black Holes and Baby Universes, The Universe in a Nutshell, and The Grand Design. I think it is important that people have a basic understanding of science so that they can make informed decisions in an increasingly scientific and technological world. My daughter, Lucy, and I have also written a series of “George” books, which are scientifically based adventure stories for children, the adults of tomorrow. ( p.101)
I have had a full and satisfying life. I believe that disabled people should concentrate on things that their handicap doesn’t prevent them from doing and not regret those they can’t do. In my case, I have managed to do most things I wanted. I have travelled widely. I visited the Soviet Union seven times. The first time I went with a student party in which one member, a Baptist, wished to distribute Russian-language Bibles and asked us to smuggle them in. We managed this undetected, but by the time we were on our way out the authorities had discovered what we had done and detained us for a while. However, to charge us with smuggling Bibles would have caused an international incident and unfavourable publicity, so they let us go after a few hours. The other six visits were to see Russian scientists who at the time were not allowed to travel to the West. After the end of the Soviet Union in 1990, many of the best scientists left for the West, so I have not been to Russia since then.
I have also visited Japan six times, China three times, and every continent, including Antarctica, with the exception of Australia. I have met the presidents of South Korea, China, India, Ireland, Chile, and the United States. I have lectured in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and in the White House. I have been under the sea in a submarine and up in a hot air balloon and a zero-gravity flight, and I’m booked to go into space with Virgin Galactic.
My early work showed that Classical general relativity broke down at singularities in the Big Bang and black holes. My later work has shown how quantum theory can predict what happens at the beginning and end of time. It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. I’m happy if I have added something to our understanding of the universe.
Stephen Hawking My Brief History Bantam Press, London, 2013. Hb. pp.130 £ 12.99
27 May 2015