Who Is Stephen Hawking?
Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England as the eldest child among four siblings. He was a world-renowned physicist and often considered to be one of the greatest minds to ever live. He was raised by two parents who had an immense respect for education and intelligence, to the point where they would often silently read books while they ate dinner together. This family background was obviously extremely influential on Stephen and may have played a rather large role in his massive academic success later in life.
His School Life
While many refer to him as a genius for his numerous contributions in the field of science, Hawking surprisingly received mediocre to below-average grades in school.
One teacher even went so far as to comment that, “This boy will never amount to anything”.
Despite the lacklustre grades his classmates saw something different. They recognised his intellect where his teachers did not, and ended up giving him the nickname “Einstein”.
As Stephen grew older he started to apply himself as a student and developed a real passion for mathematics and the sciences. This drew him to apply for a Physics and Chemistry scholarship at the University of Oxford for his bachelor’s which later turned into a doctoral degree in cosmology at the University of Cambridge.
His Love Life
In 1962, Hawking met and fell in love with the woman he would eventually marry and raise a family with – Jane Wilde. The couple announced their engagement after two years and soon married on July 14, 1965.
While the wheelchair and the distinct computerised voice have undeniably become a part of Stephen Hawking’s public image, some people don’t know how he became physically disabled in the first place. So what did Stephen Hawking have exactly?
In the earlier stages of his relationship with Jane, Hawking’s health began deteriorating. Stephen was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is an incurable motor neuron disease that results in the patient gradually losing the ability to move their muscles.
Generally, individuals have three to five remaining years after diagnosis. Though Hawking was fortunate to have greatly surpassed his life expectancy with the disease, although it came at the price of being confined to a wheelchair and having immense difficulty with speech.
The Hawking Family
Despite Stephen’s illness, the couple started their own family and had three kids together. Their names are Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. So what do they do? What do they look like? How was their relationship with their dad? And where are the Hawking children today? Let’s find out!
Robert was born in May 1967 and is the eldest of the three siblings. He is currently 52 years old and resides in Seattle, Washington with his wife, daughter, and son. When he was younger he was interested in following his father’s footsteps and becoming a physicist but he eventually gravitated towards a career in software engineering instead.
Robert took it upon himself to take care of his dad by helping him in any way that he could when he was young. His mother expressed that Robert grew up “having to do things for his father that children really shouldn’t have to do".
He had a great relationship with his father. It was apparent in the eulogy he posted on Medium. He said “My father told us many times how proud he was of his children. At first, I was uncertain how to respond, not having had something like ‘Hawking Radiation’ named after me. After a while, I came to realise (and becoming a father myself helped here) that it was the inherent pride of a father in children he loved and who loved him. So, Dad, I am proud of you: the father.”
Catherine Lucy Hawking
Lucy, the only daughter of the Hawkings, was born on November 2, 1970, currently 48 years old. She is a journalist, novelist, educator, and philanthropist who is best known for writing children’s books. She and her father co-authored a series of books together that fused creative storytelling and science.
Lucy was married to a former UN Peace Corps member, Alex Smith, for six years until they filed for divorce. Their son, William, was born a year into the marriage and was later diagnosed with autism. She fell into depression after the divorce and resorted to alcohol to cope.
Eventually, she sought out help and recovered. Her son’s condition served as inspiration for her to begin supporting other individuals who had autism.
Timothy is the youngest of the siblings, born on April 15, 1979, and currently 40 years old. He works at LEGO as a loyalty executive.
Timothy laments that his father’s speech issues made it difficult for the two to talk properly and develop their relationship.
“My dad was able to speak with his own, natural voice for those first years, but it was incredibly difficult to understand what he was saying- particularly for me at such a young age. As a 3-year-old, I had no understanding of what he was saying. I didn’t really have any communication with him for the first five years of my life.”
After 30 years, Stephen’s wife decided she needed some space. Jane and Stephen were separated for five years and then divorced. Jane claimed that Stephen’s rise to stardom ultimately hurt their relationship.
It wasn’t long until cheating rumours surfaced claiming that Jane had been cheating on Stephen. Many believe that Jane Hawking cheated by getting involved with musician Jonathan Hellyer Jones.
The Plot Thickens
Jane Wilde’s relationship with Jones raised suspicion that Timothy Hawking may not be Stephen’s biological son. The large age gap between Timothy and his siblings along with the affair allegations have raised eyebrows, assuming that he may be the love child of Wilde and Jones!
After the divorce Stephen bounced right back too. He ended up getting married to his nurse – Elaine Mason. The civil wedding took place on September 15, 1995, and the two looked very happy.
His children were not particularly fond of Elaine and they even went so far as to claim that they would find signs of physical abuse on their father. We’ll never know if those claims are true, but whatever the reason, the marriage didn’t last – Stephen and Elaine divorced in 2006.
How Old Was Stephen Hawking When He Died?
Though his doctors predicted that he wouldn’t make it to 23 years old, Stephen Hawking lived to be 76 years old, passing away on March 14, 2018. Respectively, Robert, Lucy, and Timothy were 51, 47, and 39 years old when they lost their father. Upon news of his death, there was gossip that Jane Hawking had died as well but this turned out to be fear-mongering.
The Family Legacy
Since their dad’s passing, Lucy and Timothy have promoted Stephen’s final book: Brief Answers to the Big Questions as a tribute to their father.
What was most remarkable about Hawking was not the longevity of his life or his accolades, it was how he inspired the world. He lived every day as if he were seeing it with new eyes. Though he was physically incapacitated, his mind was free and limitless.
Here’s one of his most famous quotes that captures that sentiment: "If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well.”
The Hawking children each chose different paths from their father, but there’s no denying their dad’s incredible influence on the people they grew up to be. To the public, Stephen Hawking will be remembered for his groundbreaking insights and his passion to help science reach a wider audience. But to his children, he will be remembered as a loving father before anything else.