My Brief History
I enjoyed reading this quick memoir by Stephen Hawking, the famous English theoretical physicist and cosmologist who made major contributions in theoretical physics. He was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge and the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Hawking also wrote several popular science books and a series of children’s books with his daughter. One of his most successful books was the New York Times best seller, A Brief History of Time (1988), written for the general public. The 1991 biographical documentary film of the same name is a more in-depth look at Hawking’s life. Although his scientific theories were complex, he understood the universal interest in trying to comprehend our world and its beginnings. “I wanted to explain how far I felt we had come in our understanding of the universe: how we might be near finding a complete theory that would describe the universe and everything in it.”
Hawking was born in 1942, grew up and attended Oxford and Cambridge in England. When he was twenty-one, he was diagnosed with a slow-progressing motor neuron disease. At the time of his diagnosis, Hawking was already a big thinker, but he was also young man and not entirely focused on his studies. Facing an uncertain future, he determined to devote his professional life to research and theories about black holes, time travel and other advanced physics. He married twice and had three children. Hawking died in 2018 at the age of seventy-six after a long career and numerous prestigious awards and recognitions.
Because I’m not much of a science person, I worried that Hawking’s story would be too advanced, but I was pleased to find that, although some of the scientific chapters were more difficult to follow, I could still get a good general idea about his work and theories. The book also includes a lot of interesting pictures, providing a look at the person behind the science.
At 126 pages, this memoir is indeed brief, but I was interested in what he chose to include: the descriptions of his childhood and college days, and both of his marriages. He’s very matter-of-fact about these relationships with his family and was practical about his disability. I was impressed with how he adapted to his progressing disease, which caused many secondary health problems and ultimately left him paralyzed and unable to speak. His desire to contribute to the world despite these extreme challenges helps put our smaller problems in perspective.
I recommend My Brief History to readers who enjoy understanding a little bit about the great minds that have contributed to our world.
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