The latest volume of Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society comprises 21 fascinating accounts of the lives and work of some of the most prominent scientists of our time. Perhaps most prominent of all the subjects featured is Professor Stephen Hawking, world renowned for his contributions to our understanding of gravity, black holes and cosmology, as well as for the obstacles that he overcame due to his disability.
In order to provide an accurate and insightful account of Stephen Hawking’s life and work, we organised a dream team of colleagues, collaborators, and friends – all influential in their own right – to reflect on Stephen’s career. The necessity for 8 authors (spanning contemporaries from his early years at Cambridge, collaborators from later in his career, as well as his former research students) is a testament to his influence and the enormity of his achievements. Access to the Hawking family’s archive and to the large photographic collection of Dr Anna Żytkow rounds this out into an authoritative and accessible introduction to this icon’s life and career.
We spoke to the Editor in Chief of Biographical Memoirs, Professor Malcolm Longair, about this volume and about Stephen Hawking.
Another notable physicist featured is the Nobel Prize winner Professor Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, who made outstanding contributions to both solid state physics (magnetism, superconductivity) and so-called soft matter (matière molle in French, a term he coined in his Nobel lecture). Aside from physics, the volume includes the memoir of Sir Patrick Bateson, a former Biological Secretary of the Royal Society whose seminal work in animal behaviour made him a world leader in the field, whilst other memoirs delve into the lives and legacies of several eminent engineers and chemists, many of whom made major contributions within industry. You can read information about all memoirs published in this volume in the Introduction.
This new volume of Biographical Memoirs captures a plethora of talent and history within its pages. The Hawking memoir, and the other 20 memoirs featured in this volume, highlight the value of the publication as a forum for scientific, personal and accessible accounts of some of the greatest and most successful scientists of our time, authored by their peers, contemporaries, and those who knew them best.
Volume 66 is the first of two editions to publish in 2019. Look out for Volume 67 later in the year.