Imagine you are young scientist just getting started on your career. Write a letter to Stephen Hawking asking him for his advice, and telling him your plans...
Stephen Hawking (1942–2018) was a brilliant scientist who taught us many things about our solar system and the universe. He was famous for his groundbreaking research, as well as his bestselling books that helped to simplify the complex world of cosmology. Stephen had a debilitating disease that left him paralysed. Although told he had only two years to live, he defied the doctors and spent over five decades transforming our view of space and time. Find out more about this remarkable man and use our collection of printable resources to check out your knowledge.
- Stephen was born on 8th January 1942 – the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo (a famous Italian scientist who has been called ‘the father of modern science’).
- Stephen enjoyed maths and science from an early age. His school friends gave him the nickname ‘Einstein’. It is therefore remarkable that this extraordinary man died on 14th March - Einstein's birthday and also Pi Day!
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
A Short Biography of Stephen Hawking
Stephen was born in 1942, during the Second World War. His parents lived in London at the time, but Stephen’s mother went to Oxford to have her child in safety. Stephen’s parents were well educated. They loved science and learning and had both been to Oxford University.
Stephen was the eldest of four children. When he was eight, the family moved to St Albans. Stephen did well at school and had a natural interest in science. He wanted to study maths at Oxford University, but there was no maths course at the time, so Stephen chose physics. After he graduated, Stephen went to Cambridge University to study for a PhD in cosmology.
While he was at university, Stephen’s health began to deteriorate. He noticed his speech was slurring and he became clumsy. Shortly after his 21st birthday, doctors discovered he had a disease called ALS. The nerves that controlled his muscles were breaking down, and his chances of survival were slim.
Stephen felt depressed but was then determined to make the most of the life he had left. He worked very hard to finish his PhD. When writing became difficult, he began to visualise and solve problems in his mind. Some people think this led to some of his greatest discoveries. Stephen had also recently fallen in love with a fellow student, Jane Wilde, which gave him another reason to live. They married soon afterwards and went on to have three children together.
Stephen’s disease gradually paralysed him. He could no longer walk or talk, and was confined to a wheelchair. But, to the amazement of doctors, he survived more than 50 years after his diagnosis. Science and modern medicine also improved his quality of life. He used a computerised voice system to talk which he operated first with his finger and then, when that became impossible, a muscle in his cheek.
Despite his disabilities, Stephen had an extraordinary research career. His studies helped to prove how the universe started, and his research of black holes and space-time theories challenged the work of other scientists. He was famous for discovering that black holes give off radiation (known as Hawking radiation), for example. Scientists used to think that nothing could escape a black hole’s enormous pull of gravity, but Stephen showed that over a long period of time, a black hole will eventually evaporate and disappear. Stephen also believed that time travel is possible, and that one day people might live on other planets in the universe.
When Stephen published A Brief History of Time in 1988, his bestselling book brought astronomy to the lives of ordinary people. Stephen hoped to travel to space himself one day and trained with NASA. His determination in life overcame the most difficult of obstacles, and he set his bars high: "My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." He was a truly remarkable man, and an inspiration to us all.
Our Stephen Hawking Resources
This is a challenging "compare and contrast" activity - for two great scientists, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. They will have to do research into both men before completing this worksheet.
Stephen Hawking won many awards for his work over his lifetime. Can the kids design a special medal to celebrate his achievements?
This is quite a challenging "learn to draw" tutorial, but as Stephen Hawking is a hero and role model for many children, we think they may want to perservere and learn to draw their own picture of this great scientist.
Read our short biography of Stephen Hawking and then answer the questions. You could read the biography together and then print just the third page for the children to answer the questions - or leave the children to read it themselves.
This 2 page printable provides a brief introduction to the life of Stephen Hawking. It's a good place to start for a project, perhaps...
This fun worksheet asks the children to imagine that they are a talk show host and have the opportunity to interview Stephen Hawking. Rather than coming up with their own questions, we ask them to think about what the audience might like to hear ...
Stephen Hawking has made the news again! What might he have discovered this time? Children can use this fun newspaper worksheet to practice their journalistic skills!
Useful for taking notes and writing down everything you have learned, our Stephen Hawking notebooking page comes in two versions - one with space for a picture or diagram, and one ruled throughout.
For younger children, here is a simple cartoon poster of a young Stephen Hawking, giving a lecture, perhaps about the universe!
There is so much good advice and inspiration for children in this quote from Stephen Hawking, one of our greatest scientists. In his life he had ample opportunity to give up, but never did so - and he taught us by his example and these brave words.
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." This worksheet asks the children to consider this well-known Stephen Hawking comment and think about what he meant by it. It's an interestting one to discuss!
This story paper might be useful for younger kids to write down what they have learned about Stephen Hawking, to write him a letter or to copy down some of his words of wisdom...
Our Stephen Hawking worksheet, for younger children, prompts them to find out some interesting facts about the scientist and think about what they would wish to discuss with him if they were lucky enough to get the chance!