Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942, 'exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo', as he noted. By his own account, he didn't shine at St Albans School, where he was a secondary student. 'I was never more than about half way up the class,' he wrote. 'My classwork was very untidy and my handwriting was the despair of my teachers ... When I was 12 one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything.' He went on to University College in Oxford, where he says he wanted to study mathematics but that it wasn't available, so he studied physics instead. He read for a PhD at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Today, he holds the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, once held by Isaac Newton. He was diagnosed with the wasting motor neurone disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at 21, and told by doctors that he probably didn't have long to live. Rather than sink into despair, Professor Hawking tells how, when he was in hospital, he saw a boy he knew die of leukaemia - 'it had not been a pretty sight' - and it reminded him that there were people worse off than him. He got married and won a research fellowship at Caius College, Cambridge. His studies on general relativity and new mathematical techniques he'd developed were applied to black holes, discovering that they could emit radiation (known as Hawking Radiation). In 1971 he worked out that the big bang had produced objects with a huge mass, but which were only the size of protons and in 1983 proposed his 'no boundary' theory, in which time and space are finite but have no edges. In 1973, he switched from the institute of astronomy to the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics and was made a professor of gravitational physics in 1977. Then, in 1985, Professor Hawking caught pneumonia in Switzerland and was rushed back to Cambridge, where doctors performed a tracheotomy that saved his life but destroyed his voice. He was given a voice synthesiser, which is now computerised and operated by an infra-red blink switch attached to his glasses. He also gradually lost all movement and is now completely paralysed. In 1988 he published A Brief History of Time, which has become one of the best-selling science books. Professor Hawking was married to Jane Wilde (with whom he had three children, Robert, Lucy and Tim), until they separated in 1991. He then married one of his nurses, Elaine Mason, in 1995. (Her first husband, David Mason, designed the first version of Professor Hawking's talking computer.) This second marriage became the subject of a police investigation in 2004 amid allegations of violence made by his family. The investigation ended inconclusively.