Review: My Brief History – Stephen Hawking

Thomas Jones 31 October 2013

Known for his appearance at Tuesday night Caius formals; his dominance over the Sunday Tines bestseller list; and, you know, obliterating the steady state argument, explaining cosmology by unifying quantum mechanics and General Relativity, Hawking is known as one of the most brilliant minds of our time and the best theoretical physicist since Einstein. He's a bit of a BNOC around here really.

Hawking encapsulates his unexpectedly ordinary boyhood in Highgate, to his enviable ability to question, understand and explain theoretical cosmology, in a scientifically candid memoir. The brevity of his reflections offer an insight into the mind of a man some may have thought masked by his affliction, but what you find is simply that he is human, unique: different from me, different from you and better than Brian Cox. At times he comes across as modest and at others even arrogant, but always as matter of fact, as if his true beliefs and emotions are simply scattered across these short 120 pages without the deceptive or masking effects of rhetoric.

Overall, the book does well to bridge the perceived gap between the minds and lives of scientists and society, especially that of the intimidating Hawking who is known to move at lightning speed across the frontiers of knowledge. It goes on towards the end to detail, in simple terms, some of the major pieces of his work. As a result, it seems more angled towards the cosmologically uninitiated, given that no Hawking radiation equivalents are to be found in revelations about his personal life.

As a physicist and a fan, the book was therefore factually unintriguing, but the insights it gave into his character were unparalleled. The book would be an excellent way for a student of a more literary inclination to add another element of depth to their cultural education and perhaps realise why 'It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics.'