In this week's episode, we take a look at Stephen Hawking's parents and his childhood.
Stephen Hawking is one of those people who have shaped our understanding of the universe. At a time when nobody thought that Black Holes could shrink, Stephen Hawking postulated that Black Holes could shrink too, not just keep expanding with time. Even though people vehemently opposed him when he postulated his theory, now, it is widely accepted among the scientific community.
Stephen Hawking's birth was like a movie
A few years back I watched a movie in my mother tongue Tamil. In this movie, hero's friend, let's call him Raj, falls in love with a girl. But unfortunately for him, the girl whom he falls in love with, let's call her Priya, is the daughter of a political leader. Raj, on the other hand, works as a car driver in the same political leader's home. As a driver, one of his tasks was to bring Priya to the places she wanted to go. So, that's how they got to know each other and fell in love.
But even though Raj loves Priya so much, he is shit scared of her mother. Unlike in the USA and European countries, marrying the person one loves, is not such a simple thing in India. There are lots of factors that should match - caste, horoscope, financial status, etc. So, as a driver, Raj was neither of the same caste as Priya, nor did he have a respectable financial status.
So, he asks his friend, the hero, lets call him Vijay, for help. So, the hero agrees to help them get married. According to our tradition, the marriage is considered complete when the bridegroom ties a holy thread around the neck of the bride. So, all three of them, the hero Vijay, his friend Raj, and Raj's lover Priya, get into a car and go to a temple to get married. But somehow, Priya's mother keeps finding out their location, regardless of wherever they go, and sends thugs to stop them. So, at one point of time, they are just one km away from the temple, but they abandon the car and start running into a crowd, because they are surrounded. They run, while the thugs belonging to Priya's mother try to kill them by shooting at them.
But somehow they reach the temple. At that time, the hero Vijay vanishes suddenly. But Raj and Priya enter the temple, and notice that they don't have the holy thread, and without it, the marriage is not considered complete. Vijay was supposed to bring the holy thread, but he has suddenly gone missing.
Exactly at that moment, Priya's mother enters the temple with her thugs, and standing behind them, showing them where Raj and Priya were, was Vijay. It's only then that it becomes apparent to Raj and Priya that the person who was revealing their location to Priya's mother all this time was none other than Vijay.
While Priya's mother thanks Vijay for helping them, Vijay suddenly throws the holy thread to Raj and asks him to tie it around Priya's neck. So, Raj does that and completes the marriage. Now, Priya's mother cannot separate them anymore. Finally Raj and Priya are happy, even though Priya's mother is furious at them and also at Vijay for backstabbing her.
But Raj and Priya still can't understand why Vijay revealed their location to Priya's mother and made them struggle so much for a marriage that could have been done easily without any struggle. So, they ask Vijay why he did that. Vijay replies, that if they had done a simple marriage, it would have been mundane. But now, it has become extremely thrilling and interesting, because of the chasing, the shooting, and their great escape.
So, for those of you who are by this point of time, wondering, what has this story go to do with Stephen Hawking's biography, just like this story, Stephen Hawking's birth was also an interesting event. To give birth to him, his mother had to run away to Oxford, and his birth itself, was shrouded in prophecies.
Stephen Hawking's parents
Stephen Hawking's father was Frank Hawking [Citation 1], who worked as a medical researcher in a medical institute in Hampstead. His mother, Isobel Eileen Hawking [Citation 2], worked as a secretary in the same medical institute. That's how they met, fell in love and got married.
As a result of this love, on January 8th, 1942, Stephen Hawking was born.
Stephen Hawking's childhood
The Hawkings were people who were considered eccentric by others. They used an old taxi for traveling, grew bees, and produced fireworks. They also ate food in complete silence, while reading books.
But despite being born to eccentric, but intelligent parents, Hawking wasn't initially a high-achiever at school. He was actually ranked third from the last in his class.
Until he was eight years old, he didn't even learn to read properly, because the school he was studying at, Byron House School, used hands-on projects to teach pupils to solve problems, instead of teaching them to read and write. After he turned eight years old, he started studying at the St.Albans all-girls' school. The girls' school permitted boys less than ten years old to study at the school, and hence, Hawking continued his education there.
Once he turned ten years old, he began studying at the St.Alban's partially co-educational school. But even in this school, he did not focus much on his studies. He considered the subjects boring, and hence, spent time with his friends, discussing Christianity, playing board games, and making model boats and airplanes instead of studying.
But all this changed when Dikran Tahta, a British Armenian mathematician [Citation 3] came to work at St.Albans school, and started teaching Hawking and his class mathematics. The teaching methods he used impressed Hawking immediately. He also liked to have discussions with his students. So, Hawking became interested in mathematics and science, and decided to do his Bachelor's degree in mathematics.
But Hawking's father wanted him to study medicine at Oxford, so that he could follow in his footsteps. But what did Hawking do? Find out in the next episode of this podcast.