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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 18:16 GMT
Hawking extols joy of discovery
Hawking, AP
Scientific discovery may not be better than sex, but the satisfaction lasts longer, says Professor Stephen Hawking.

"There is nothing like the 'Eureka' moment, of discovering something that no one knew before," he said in a lecture at the end of a week-long Cambridge conference celebrating his 60th birthday.

"I will not compare it to sex - but it lasts longer."

Since 1979, Professor Hawking has been Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, UK, a post awarded to Sir Isaac Newton in 1669.

I had an argument with a wall a few days after Christmas and the wall won

Professor Stephen Hawking
"It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics," he told an audience of 200 paying guests - which included astronomer royal, Sir Martin Rees, and Rock band U2's multi-millionaire guitarist, The Edge.

"Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the past 40 years and I am happy if I have made a small contribution. I want to share my excitement and enthusiasm."

Click here to watch Hawking's 60th birthday lecture

Britain's longest surviving motor neurone disease sufferer, Professor Hawking was given little more than two years to live after being diagnosed with the crippling muscle-wasting condition at the age of 22.

He can hardly move and uses a speech synthesiser running on a portable computer to speak and give lectures around the world.

Remained conscious

Professor Hawking is recovering from a broken hip. He crashed into a wall after his wheelchair toppled on cobbles outside his Cambridge home while he was on his way to the city centre with a nurse.

Professor Hawking was taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where he remained for five days.

He has had a tracheotomy, which means he cannot have conventional anaesthetic and remained conscious during the surgery.

Professor Hawking told close friends: "It was like hearing a Black and Decker drill. I had an argument with a wall a few days after Christmas and the wall won," he said.

"But Addenbrooke's did a very good job of putting me back together again."

Professor Hawking obtained a first class honours degree in physics at University College, written countless scientific papers and three best-selling books.

Black holes

His book, A Brief History Of Time, became an international best-seller - although it is thought many who bought the book never quite finished it because of the complexity of some of the concepts contained within it.

Nevertheless, Professor Hawking has become a multi-millionaire and achieved a popular status enjoyed by few scientists, even making guest appearances on The Simpsons cartoon show and Star Trek.

Professor Hawking explains on his own website that one of his achievements has been to show, together with Sir Roger Penrose, that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implies space and time have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.

See also:

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Colonise space or die, says Hawking
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Hawking's briefer history of time
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