Stephen Hawking: A Memoir of Friendship and Physics

Leonard Mlodinow. Pantheon, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-524-74868-5
Mixing remembrance and popular science into a pleasing memoir, physicist Mlodinow (Elastic) writes about his collaboration and friendship with Stephen Hawking, beginning in 2003 and continuing until Hawking’s death in 2018, during which time they co-wrote A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design. While relating trips to Cambridge to meet with Hawking, Mlodinow tells of Hawking’s battle with ALS and his two marriages and 40-year career, and outlines Hawking’s contributions to physics, particularly cosmology and general relativity. Candidly reflecting on Hawking’s paralysis, he muses that his collaborator’s experience with contradictions in his own life, as a man “both powerful and powerless,” fed into one of his greatest gifts as a scientist, a knack for “reconciling contradictory theories and ideas.” Mlodinow also recalls their arguments (Hawking would use the volume control on his computer voice to express his frustration) and their philosophical discussions over wine (despite Hawking being able to communicate only six words per minute with the help of a computer and a sensor in his eyeglasses to detect face muscle movements). This memorable book allows readers to see the human side of a figure who might otherwise seem intimidatingly remote. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 03/05/2020
Release date: 05/12/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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