October 24, 2008

Stephen Hawking To Retire From Cambridge Post This Year

Renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking will retire from his prominent Cambridge University position at the end of the academic year in September, but plans to continue his study of space and time, the university said Friday.

Hawking is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by the distinguished 18th century physicist Isaac Newton.

Cambridge University policy requires officeholders to retire at the end of the academic year in which they turn 67 years old, a milestone Hawking will reach on January 8. The university said he will continue working as Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

"We look forward to him continuing his academic work at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, playing a leading role in research in cosmology and gravitation," Professor Peter Haynes, who heads the department, told the Associate Press.

Hawking, 66, became a scientific icon for his theoretical work on black holes and the nature of time, work he conducted despite his paralysis from motor neurone disease. Disproving the hypothesis that black holes are so dense that nothing can escape their gravitational force, he discovered that black holes leak small amounts of light and other radiation, now called "Hawking radiation."

Henry Lucas founded the Lucasian professorship post in 1663, and King Charles II officially established it in 1664. Lucas left his 4,000 books, along with land, to the university. 

Newton was the second person to hold the post. Paul Dirac, a quantum mechanics specialist who predicted the existence of positron particles, held the title from 1932 to 1969.

Hawking was appointed in 1979. His 1988 book, "A Brief History of Time," was an international best seller, and was followed by the more accessible  "A Briefer History of Time," in 2005. Hawking also co-authored "George's Secret Key to the Universe" with his daughter Lucy, which was published last year for the children's market. 


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