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Stephen Hawking Reviews

Stephen Hawking by Leonard Mlodinow

Stephen Hawking

A Memoir of Friendship and Physics

Leonard Mlodinow

4.22 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 8 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9780241411131

*One of the biggest books of the autumn according to The Times and Guardian* 'An intimate, unique, and inspiring perspective on the life and work of one of the greatest minds of our time.

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4 stars out of 5
Marcus Berkmann
24 Sep 2020

"Hawking emerges as a mass of contradictions"

Unable to write an equation much after the age of 30, he conceived and developed his ideas in geometrical terms instead, which enabled him to come at things from a different direction. No, I don't understand that either, but you can only respect his sheer drive and determination. Mlodinow hasn't written a warts-and-all portrait. Indeed, his book is so awash with admiration it sometimes approaches hagiography. But I'm not sure that's a problem. What really comes over is his modest delight that he made a friend of such an eminent man, and his explanations of the science are startlingly good. You will learn from this what you signally failed to learn from A Brief History Of Time. Looks nice on the shelf, too.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
Jim Al-Khalili
17 Sep 2020

"a tender account, full of genuine affection, which doesn’t shy away from Hawking’s intense focus"

What is refreshing is the absence of the usual adulation of an exceptional mind and celebration of triumph over adversity. In their place is a tender account, full of genuine affection, which doesn’t shy away from Hawking’s intense focus, self-centredness, unpredictability and the difficulties faced by his wives and carers. The author, Leonard Mlodinow, is in an almost unique position. A fellow physicist and science writer, he worked closely with Hawking over many years during which they co-wrote two bestselling books: A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design, the collaboration on and writing of which forms the backdrop for this memoir.

5 stars out of 5
Steven Poole
13 Sep 2020

"This brief book somehow manages to be both a personal and intellectual biography of its subject – and tremendously entertaining with it"

Rather as a black hole contains enormous amounts of matter compressed into a tiny space, this brief book somehow also functions as both a personal and intellectual biography of its subject, without wasting time on trivia or prurience. (Hawking’s complicated love life is mentioned non-judgmentally.) “To apply quantum theory to the entire universe raises many questions,” Mlodinow writes at one point, with amusing understatement; but his explanations of fundamental ideas in modern cosmology — the curvature of spacetime, the expansion of the universe, and so forth — are marvels of compact clarity.

3 stars out of 5
9 Sep 2020

"This book offers a glimpse into the frustrated, fallible and infuriating side of the great scientist"

Mlodinow is a good writer. You are unlikely to find a better primer to Hawking, or to his physics. Even so, much of it is, to use a journalistic term, a “cuts job” — stories drawn from other sources. At the end we are left with as good a picture as we are likely to get of a man who was surely the most improbable global celebrity of the early 21st century. Yet I’m not sure how much closer we really are to knowing what was going on behind that twitching cheek and lopsided smile.