A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes’ is a 1988 popular science book written by English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, which attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology (e.g. the Big Bang, black holes, and light cones) to the nonspecialist reader.

Its main goal is to give an overview of the subject but, unusual for a popular science book, it also attempts to explain some complex mathematics. The author notes that an editor warned him that for every equation in the book the readership would be halved, hence it includes only a single equation: E=mc2.

In addition to Hawking’s notable abstention from presenting equations, the book also simplifies matters by means of illustrations throughout the text, depicting complex models and diagrams. The book ends with: ‘If we find [a unified theory], it would be the ultimate triumph — for then we would know the mind of God.’

The first edition included an introduction by Carl Sagan in which the noted astronomer describes the first time he saw Hawking. Sagan was in London for a scientific conference in 1974, and between sessions he wandered into a room, where a larger meeting was taking place: ‘I realized that I was watching an ancient ceremony.

The investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society, one of the most ancient scholarly organizations on the planet. In the front row, a young man in a wheelchair was, very slowly, signing his name in a book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton… Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.’


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