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My brief history by Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous physicists and researchers in cosmology in the world, tells the story of his life in this book. Did you know that he is self learned when it comes to maths? Or that he wasn't happy when his little sister was born? This book includes information that shows the man behind the success.

What made him interested in science and so successful? As a young boy, he was fascinated by systems and wanted to control them. He used to take apart items to see how they worked, but couldn't set them back. Theory has always been his field, not the practical part. But solving the greatest mystery of all, the system of the universe, was a way of controlling it, he thought. That became his subject.

His family was not rich with a lot of possibilities. They had to think about money. He spended several summer holidays in a wagon previously owned by roamers. His father built bunks with stretchers from the second world war. His father came from a poor family and was very economical, refusing to turn on the central heat, and instead putting on several layers of clothes. He also seems to have been a very determined person. He was a doctor and his research was focused on tropical illness and meant a lot of traveling. During his time in India he refused to eat Indian food and hired a former chef in the brittich army that cooked english food.

Stephen Hawking is a fascinating person. He is self learned when it comes to mathematics. He is a math professor, but has no formal education in mathematics after his time at St. Albans where he read some maths as a seventeen year old. How could anyone be able to learn such complicated math by himself? He later tutored students at Cambridge and made sure to be one week ahead of the syllabus. 

He got scholarship and began at Oxford after St. Albans, as a seventeen year old, and the others in his class had done military service and was much older. The mentality at Oxford is interesting - either you were so talented and intelligent that you didn't have to study, or you should accept your incompetence and get bad grades. If you worked hard to achieve good grades, you were a so called grey man. During his three years at Oxford, Stephen Hawking took a test before staring there, and the final exams before getting his degree. He started as a research student at Cambridge 1962.

When 21 years old, he got the diagnosis ALS and learned that he had two year left to live. Having met Jane Wilde around the same time, he started to work hard for the first time in his life, to get a job and be able to marry her.

The first half of the book is very interesting. Then, something happens in the book. Stephen Hawking leaves the story of his life and delve into the world of time like curves, singularities and black holes, which doesn't fit in a biography, but perhaps another book. Then he wrote A briefer history of time, and at first, the publisher made him simplify some of the content so a regular reader would understand it, before it was published. That book is understandable and interesting. What's not understandable is this book, this transition from biography to facts about time travel. But probably, physics is a part of him and he is a part of physics.

Except that, the book is written straight forward, without much digressions. Stephen Hawking uses a matter of fact-tone. He is not much for shape and dramaturgy, but tells the story straight out, and that makes the book somewhat uneven. It contains much about his achievements and conferences around the world, which is fine, but it would have been interesting to learn more about him, his family and his struggle with life. He got two more years, but is still alive today, and continues to captivate a whole world.

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