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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Hawking takes top book prize
Hawking, BBC
Professor Stephen Hawking has won one of the world's most prestigious prizes for popular science writing - the Aventis Prize for Science Books.

The world-famous physicist's publication - The Universe In A Nutshell - was honoured with the 10,000 prize at a gala dinner at the London Science Museum on Tuesday.


Even if you don't understand the entire book, you'll still gain so much from a story told by an extraordinary mind

Dr Raj Persaud, chairman of judges
The work is a glossy and well-illustrated beginner's guide to cosmology: black holes, quantum theory, inflation, time travel, string theory and the rest.

It is described as a sequel to the astonishing (though difficult to read) bestseller, A Brief History Of Time, which shot the professor to international stardom when it was released in 1988.

"I didn't expect to win this prize," Professor Hawking said after accepting the prize. "After all, my previous book didn't win any prizes, despite selling millions. But I am very pleased to have had better luck this time.

"Science writing really can have an impact on how we live. Wherever I go all around the world, people want to know more. This has helped raise the profile of science."

Long run

Chairman of the Aventis judges, Dr Raj Persaud, a psychiatrist and consultant at the Maudsley Hospital, said of Hawking's new publication: "This book made a real effort to enliven its subject, through readable text and clear illustrations.

"It had the production values of a real book of the 21st Century. It is the current state of cosmology from the perspective of a leading practitioner who has done so much to popularise the field."

Brief History spent more than four years in the London Sunday Times' bestseller list - a record for any book.

However, it has often been said that many of the people who bought the book - there are thought to be about nine million copies in print globally - never managed to read it through from cover to cover because of the difficult concepts it contained.

'Extraordinary mind'

Nutshell uses all the latest graphical techniques to try to make those concepts come alive.

"Even if you don't understand the entire book, you'll still gain so much from a story told by an extraordinary mind," Dr Persaud told BBC News Online.

Stephen Hawking is the current Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.

To mark his 60th birthday this year, the university hosted a celebratory symposium. It was addressed by Professor Hawking himself, his collaborator Sir Roger Penrose, and the English Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees.

Young readers

The 10,000 Aventis prize for the best science book for children under 14 went to Richard Walker for the Dorling Kindersley Guide To The Human Body.

Junior Prize, BBC
Richard Walker: The latest in a long line of successful DK authors
The chairman of the judges for the junior prize, Dr John Ashworth, had high praise for the DK publication.

"I think this book should be in every doctor's surgery as well as every school library."

Dr Walker said the secret to good writing for children "was a matter of attempting to identify with what they understand already, putting things into context".

"You have to try to find the child in yourself - to think what interested you when you were a child. This is easier for me to do because I have also been a teacher."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Aventis Prize ceremony
Dr Raj Persaud explains why the prize was given to Prof Hawking
See also:

12 Jun 01 | Science/Nature
07 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
19 Oct 01 | Newsmakers
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