Cover image for
My brief history
Hawking, Stephen, 1942-
9780345535283 (hbk. : acid-free paper)

0345535286 (hbk. : acid-free paper)
Personal Author:
First edition.
Physical Description:
127 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Childhood -- St. Albans -- Oxford -- Cambridge -- Gravitational waves -- The big bang -- Black holes -- Caltech -- Marriage -- A brief history of time -- Time travel -- Imaginary time -- No boundaries.
The physicist explores his life and intellectual evolution.
Personal Subject:
Pub Date:
Bantam Books, [2013]


Home Location
Material Type
Shelf Number
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392
Adult Biography Book B H392

On Order




Stephen Hawking has dazzled readers worldwide with a string of bestsellers exploring the mysteries of the universe. Now, for the first time, perhaps the most brilliant cosmologist of our age turns his gaze inward for a revealing look at his own life and intellectual evolution.

My Brief History recounts Stephen Hawking's improbable journey, from his postwar London boyhood to his years of international acclaim and celebrity. Lavishly illustrated with rarely seen photographs, this concise, witty, and candid account introduces readers to a Hawking rarely glimpsed in previous books: the inquisitive schoolboy whose classmates nicknamed him Einstein; the jokester who once placed a bet with a colleague over the existence of a particular black hole; and the young husband and father struggling to gain a foothold in the world of physics and cosmology.

Writing with characteristic humility and humor, Hawking opens up about the challenges that confronted him following his diagnosis of ALS at age twenty-one. Tracing his development as a thinker, he explains how the prospect of an early death urged him onward through numerous intellectual breakthroughs, and talks about the genesis of his masterpiece A Brief History of Time --one of the iconic books of the twentieth century.

Clear-eyed, intimate, and wise, My Brief History opens a window for the rest of us into Hawking's personal cosmos.

Author Notes

Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England on January 8, 1942. He received a first class honors degree in natural science from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. He was a theoretical physicist and has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University from 1982 until his death. In 1974, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific organization.

In 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease confined him to a wheelchair and reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements, but left his mental faculties untouched. He became a leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes.

He wrote numerous books including A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, Black Holes and Baby Universes, On the Shoulders of Giants, A Briefer History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell, and The Grand Design. In 1982, he was named a commander of the British Empire. A film about his life, The Theory of Everything, was released in 2014 and was based on his first wife Jane Hawking's book Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. He died on March 14, 2018 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Choice Review

This slender volume is an autobiographical account of the world's most famous celebrity scientist. The fascinating journey begins in postwar London, where Hawking (1942- ) grew up, and progresses to Oxford and Caltech, where he was educated and conducted research, to Cambridge, where he was the prestigious Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (a position once held by Isaac Newton). Along the way, readers learn about his interactions with numerous people and his attraction to black holes. Beyond the cosmology to which he made significant contributions, Hawking is known for the debilitating disease that severely inhibits his motor functions. He was alerted more than once of a short life-span, but he has clearly lived a long, productive life. His creativity was in no way affected by an ailment that could have thrown lesser minds into vegetative depression. Aided by ingenious devices to communicate and write, he has published many important scientific papers and best-selling popular science books. A Brief History of Time (1988) has sold millions more copies than many other successful books. Hawking says it all with charm, intermingling his personal life with abstruse theoretical physics in nontechnical language. Revealing the power of mind over body, this is an enjoyable, entertaining, and inspiring work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; informed general audiences. V. V. Raman emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology

Library Journal Review

The public generally pictures theoretical physicist Hawking (A Brief History of Time) as a slight man, wheelchair-bound from Lou Gehrig's disease. That a different Hawking snapshot graces the cover of his autobiography-a robust youth posturing with his Cambridge Boat Club chums-hints at the rich life behind the scientist's public persona. Expanded from his celebrated lectures titled "A Brief History of Mine" and a documentary of the same name, Hawking recounts his youth, academic successes, marriages, and fatherhood. The brevity referenced in the title was necessitated by the constraints of typing three words a minute using a single facial muscle. Narrator Matthew -Brenher's resonant voice anchors the memoir in place and captures Hawking's spirit. Chapters begin voiced by a speech synthesizer, merging with and then fading to -Brenher's voice. The book's final sentences reverse the process, blending Brenher's voice back to Hawking's speech synthesizer. It's a powerful effect unique to audio presentation. The savvy listener may want to borrow the print book since it is enhanced with 47 captioned photos. VERDICT Young adults and adults, laypersons and scientists will find 71-year-old Hawking's life story enriching.-Judith Robinson, Dept. of Lib. & Information Studies, Univ. at Buffalo (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



9780345535283|excerpt Hawking / MY BRIEF HISTORY 1 Childhood My father, Frank, came from a line of tenant farmers in Yorkshire, England. His grandfather--my great-grandfather John Hawking--had been a wealthy farmer, but he had bought too many farms and had gone bankrupt in the agricultural depression at the beginning of this century. His son Robert--my grandfather--tried to help his father but went bankrupt himself. Fortunately, Robert's wife owned a house in Boroughbridge in which she ran a school, and this brought in a small amount of income. They thus managed to send their son to Oxford, where he studied medicine. My father won a series of scholarships and prizes, which enabled him to send money back to his parents. He then went into research in tropical medicine, and in 1937 he traveled to East Africa as part of his research. When the war began, he made an overland journey across Africa and down the Congo River to get a ship back to England, where he volunteered for military service. He was told, however, that he was more valuable in medical research. My mother was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the third of eight children of a family doctor. The eldest was a girl with Down syndrome, who lived separately with a caregiver until she died at the age of thirteen. The family moved south to Devon when my mother was twelve. Like my father's family, hers was not well off. Nevertheless, they too managed to send my mother to Oxford. After Oxford, she had various jobs, including that of inspector of taxes, which she did not like. She gave that up to become a secretary, which was how she met my father in the early years of the war. I was born on January 8, 1942, exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo. I estimate, however, that about two hundred thousand other babies were also born that day. I don't know whether any of them was later interested in astronomy. I was born in Oxford, even though my parents were living in London. This was because during World War II, the Germans had an agreement that they would not bomb Oxford and Cambridge, in return for the British not bombing Heidelberg and Göttingen. It is a pity that this civilized sort of arrangement couldn't have been extended to more cities. We lived in Highgate, in north London. My sister Mary was born eighteen months after me, and I'm told I did not welcome her arrival. All through our childhood there was a certain tension between us, fed by the narrow difference in our ages. In our adult life, however, this tension has disappeared, as we have gone different ways. She became a doctor, which pleased my father. My sister Philippa was born when I was nearly five and better able to understand what was happening. I can remember looking forward to her arrival so that there would be three of us to play games. She was a very intense and perceptive child, and I always respected her judgment and opinions. My brother, Edward, was adopted much later, when I was fourteen, so he hardly entered my childhood at all. He was very different from the other three children, being completely non-academic and non-intellectual, which was probably good for us. He was a rather difficult child, but one couldn't help liking him. He died in 2004 from a cause that was never properly determined; the most likely explanation is that he was poisoned by fumes from the glue he was using for renovations in his flat. My earliest memory is of standing in the nursery of Byron House School in Highgate and crying my head off. All around me, children were playing with what seemed like wonderful toys, and I wanted to join in. But I was only two and a half, this was the first time I had been left with people I didn't know, and I was scared. I think my parents were rather surprised at my reaction, because I was their first child and they had been following child development textbooks that said that children ought to be ready to start making social relationships at two. But they took me away after that awful morning and didn't send me back to Byron House for another year and a half. At that time, during and just after the war, Highgate was an area in which a number of scientific and academic people lived. (In another country they would have been called intellectuals, but the English have never admitted to having any intellectuals.) All these parents sent their children to Byron House School, which was a very progressive school for those times. I remember complaining to my parents that the school wasn't teaching me anything. The educators at Byron House didn't believe in what was then the accepted way of drilling things into you. Instead, you were supposed to learn to read without realizing you were being taught. In the end, I did learn to read, but not until the fairly late age of eight. My sister Philippa was taught to read by more conventional methods and could read by the age of four. But then, she was definitely brighter than me. We lived in a tall, narrow Victorian house, which my parents had bought very cheaply during the war, when everyone thought London was going to be bombed flat. In fact, a V-2 rocket landed a few houses away from ours. I was away with my mother and sister at the time, but my father was in the house. Fortunately, he was not hurt, and the house was not badly damaged. But for years there was a large bomb site down the road, on which I used to play with my friend Howard, who lived three doors the other way. Howard was a revelation to me because his parents weren't intellectuals like the parents of all the other children I knew. He went to the council school, not Byron House, and he knew about football and boxing, sports that my parents wouldn't have dreamed of following. Another early memory was getting my first train set. Toys were not manufactured during the war, at least not for the home market. But I had a passionate interest in model trains. My father tried making me a wooden train, but that didn't satisfy me, as I wanted something that moved on its own. So he got a secondhand clockwork train, repaired it with a soldering iron, and gave it to me for Christmas when I was nearly three. That train didn't work very well. But my father went to America just after the war, and when he came back on the Queen Mary he brought my mother some nylons, which were not obtainable in Britain at that time. He brought my sister Mary a doll that closed its eyes when you laid it down. And he brought me an American train, complete with a cowcatcher and a figure-eight track. I can still remember my excitement as I opened the box. Clockwork trains, which you had to wind up, were all very well, but what I really wanted were electric trains. I used to spend hours watching a model railway club layout in Crouch End, near Highgate. I dreamed about electric trains. Finally, when both my parents were away somewhere, I took the opportunity to draw out of the Post Office bank all of the very modest amount of money that people had given me on special occasions such as my christening. I used the money to buy an electric train set, but frustratingly enough, it didn't work very well either. I should have taken the set back and demanded that the shop or manufacturer replace it, but in those days the attitude was that it was a privilege to buy something, and it was just your bad luck if it turned out to be faulty. So I paid for the electric motor of the engine to be serviced, but it never worked very well, even then. Later on, in my teens, I built model airplanes and boats. I was never very good with my hands, but I did this with my school friend John McClenahan, who was much better and whose father had a workshop in their house. My aim was always to build working models that I could control. I didn't care what they looked like. I think it was the same drive that led me to invent a series of very complicated games with another school friend, Roger Ferneyhough. There was a manufacturing game, complete with factories in which units of different colors were made, roads and railways on which they were carried, and a stock market. There was a war game, played on a board of four thousand squares, and even a feudal game, in which each player was a whole dynasty, with a family tree. I think these games, as well as the trains, boats, and airplanes, came from an urge to know how systems worked and how to control them. Since I began my PhD, this need has been met by my research into cosmology. If you understand how the universe operates, you control it, in a way. Excerpted from My Brief History by Stephen W. Hawking All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 Childhoodp. 3
2 St. Albansp. 14
3 Oxfordp. 30
4 Cambridgep. 41
5 Gravitational Wavesp. 56
6 The Big Bangp. 59
7 Black Holesp. 66
8 Caltechp. 76
9 Marriagep. 83
10 A Brief History of Timep. 92
11 Time Travelp. 101
12 Imaginary Timep. 114
13 No Boundariesp. 121
Illustration Creditsp. 127