Stephen Hawking is known for his work regarding black holes and for authoring several popular science books. He suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Groundbreaking findings from another young cosmologist, Roger Penrose, about the fate of stars and the creation of black holes tapped into Hawking's own fascination with how the universe began. This set him on a career course that reshaped the way the world thinks about black holes and the universe.
While physical control over his body diminished (he'd be forced to use a wheelchair by 1969), the effects of his disease started to slow down. In 1968, a year after the birth of his son Robert, Hawking became a member of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.
In 1974, Hawking's research turned him into a celebrity within the scientific world when he showed that black holes aren't the information vacuums that scientists had thought they were. In simple terms, Hawking demonstrated that matter, in the form of radiation, can escape the gravitational force of a collapsed star. Hawking radiation was born.
In 1988 Hawking, a recipient of the Commander of the Order of the British Empire, catapulted to international prominence with the publication of A Brief History of Time. The short, informative book became an account of cosmology for the masses. The work was an instant success, spending more than four years atop the London Sunday Times' best-seller list. Since its publication, it has sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into more than 40 languages. But it also wasn't as easy to understand as some had hoped. So in 2001, Hawking followed up his book with The Universe in a Nutshell, which offered a more illustrated guide to cosmology's big theories. Four years later, he authored the even more accessible A Briefer History of Time.