On the Shoulders of Giants, 2002

On the Shoulders of Giants, 2002

There is one thing that most people can easily agree on, and that is that Stephen Hawking is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds that has ever come along. In fact, he has directly contributed to several scientific discoveries and achievements, not to mention being the recipient of several awards and writing a number of books designed for the express purpose of educating the rest of the world about the things he is so passionate about. This is a lot for any individual to achieve in a lifetime, but Hawking himself has had to overcome a number of obstacles that most people would consider to be insurmountable. The thing that truly sets him apart is that he has never allowed these challenges to define him, nor has he ever allowed them to stop him from achieving his goals when it comes to finding out more about the scientific community.

On the Shoulders of Giants
One of the most popular books that Hawking has put together thus far is called “On the Shoulders of Giants: The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy.” Essentially, this book serves as a compilation of important works from other great minds that have been edited by Hawking. Of course, he also provides his own commentary for each entry that appears in the book. Published in 2002 by Running Press, this is a book that is still highly sought after more than a decade after it first became available to the general public. It is definitely not considered a light read. At more than one thousand pages, it is a book that is only for the dedicated individual who truly wants to learn more about all of the interesting things that physics and astronomy have to offer.

Hawking’s Background
Stephen Hawking was born in 1942. It was obvious early on that he craved knowledge about things like physics and astronomy at a much deeper level than most individuals. It was equally obvious that he was also capable of understanding more information about these particular types of things than most people. Soon, he would literally be changing the face of the world when it came to scientific discoveries. As he got older, Hawking attended a number of prestigious universities in order to get the education required and eventually specialized in general relativity and well as quantum gravity. As such, he has been responsible for making scientific discoveries in both of these subjects, changing the way that people think about the world.

Accolades and Challenges
As a result of his work, Hawking has been on the receiving end of a number of accolades, even resulting in the presidential Medal of Honor. This is huge treat for any individual, but it is even greater when the fact is considered that Hawking was not born in the United States. It only goes to show how important his discoveries have really been and how the work that he has already completed, as well as his ongoing achievements, serve to contribute to the scientific community and to the world as a whole. Furthermore, these achievements and accolades are made even more astounding by the fact that he has been forced to combat a serious disease for the majority of his adult life. Several years ago, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative neurological condition that slowly takes away a person’s freedom, and eventually, their life. As such, the disease has been paralyzing him slowly for a number of years. Today, he is wheelchair-bound and is forced to use an electronic device to communicate because he is no longer capable of speaking normally. Despite all of these challenges, he has not only been involved in some of the most exciting scientific discoveries known to humankind, but he has been the reason that these discoveries exist. One thing is certain, Hawking has never let challenges get him down so it only stands to reason that he would eventually write several important books to chronicle his adventures in the scientific world.

A Book Written by Several Authors
This is the case with “On the Shoulders of Giants.” The book is actually written by several authors, many of whom are considered to be the greatest scientific minds that have ever existed in history. Hawking certainly fits in with that group. It is interesting that his choice of title, On the Shoulders of Giants, reflects his respect and admiration for these individuals. While it is true that he has produced commentary for every insert in the book and that the entries have been edited by him, he makes it clear that the entries themselves come from individuals who are largely considered to be responsible for shaping the way that people think about science today, ranging from the junior high science class to the individual who is Seeking a PhD in quantum physics.

Individual Works
For example, this book contains works that discuss a theory about the sun called heliocentrism that was originally introduced by Copernicus. The theory basically states that the universe rotates around the sun as opposed to rotating around the earth. When Copernicus first put forth this theory, people literally thought he was crazy. Over time, Copernicus proved that and many other theories correct. The problem is, he was such a visionary during his day that other individuals were nowhere near being able to accept the theories that he was putting out there. As a result, many people did not fully accept his theories until years after his death. Following this particular work are three additional entries written by Kepler that discuss different aspects of astronomy. All of them have to do with theories that were introduced by Kepler that have essentially changed the way that people understand astronomy. Thanks to these theories and others like them, astronomy is a far different subject today than it was when it first began. Most importantly, it is a subject that is constantly transforming as people learn more. The next work is by Galileo and discusses various aspects of physics. Finally, works by Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein are included.

Summary
Make no mistake about it, this is not a book that is just for great minds, but one that should be read by anyone who wants to learn more information about these subjects. It just might be the driving force that sparks the inspiration for the next Stephen Hawking that will benefit future generations.

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