Turning Point

Once the disease took hold, Hawking's condition quickly deteriorated. He soon began to rely on a walking stick to help him move about. He acted confused and behaved as if there were no point in living.

His salvation came, not only from the strong will lying dormant within him, but also in the form of Jane Wilde, a girl he met and became acquainted with during the 1962 holiday festivities at his parents' home. He and Jane announced their engagement, and Hawking returned to his routine with more pleasure and a better work ethic than ever before.

With a Ph.D. as his goal, Hawking moved forward under Sciama, attending lectures and seminars that would conclude in open discussion. Soon he became involved in the first publicly important project of his undergraduate years. At Cambridge, students' work was never secretive. After examining the work being done by one of Fred Hoyle's students, Jayant Narlikar, on Hoyle's steady-state theory of the origins of the universe, Hawking began, out of sheer fascination, to formulate a theory of his own. According to Hawking in a January 2002 article in Plus Magazine titled "Sixty Years in a Nutshell," the steady-state theory is:

. . . one in which as the universe expanded, new matter was continually created to keep the density constant on average. The steady state theory was never on a very strong theoretical basis, because it required a negative energy field to create the matter. This would have made it unstable to runaway production of matter and negative energy. But it had the great merit as a scientific theory, of making definite predictions that could be tested by observations.

On one memorable occasion, Hawking attended a lecture given by Hoyle on his steady-state theory, during which Hoyle provided a premature mathematical model consistent with the general theory of relativity. As usual, attendees joined in discussion after the lecture. In a room full of scientists, Hawking stood and challenged Hoyle, claiming that he was announcing results not yet verified. Hawking insisted that Hoyle's quantity diverged; that the influence of all the matter in a steady-state universe would make his masses infinite. Hawking later proved himself right by showing his mathematical findings in writing, which he had calculated before Hoyle's lecture. His findings were highly received and, at the very least, they characterized Hawking as Hoyle's intellectual equal.

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