Stephen Hawking's 'historic and compelling' doctoral thesis is open source now

For the first time, Professor Hawking has made his 1966 doctoral thesis available for all to download and read.

Now, anyone and everyone in the world will be able to download and read the doctoral thesis of a 24-year-old Cambridge postgraduate student. What's the big deal? Well, the thesis, titled, "Properties of Expanding Universes," was written in 1966 by then 24-year-old Stephen Hawking.

"By making my PhD thesis open access, I hope to inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet; to wonder about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the cosmos. Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and inquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding," said Professor Hawking, as reported by the Cambridge University.

The University said that Stephen Hawking's "historic and compelling" thesis was the most-requested item that they came across in their open access repository, Apollo. "In just the past few months, the university has received hundreds of requests from readers wishing to download Prof Hawking's thesis in full."

The research of Hawking in the thesis considers implications and consequences of the expansion of the universe. The paper finally concludes that galaxies cannot be formed through the growth of perturbations that were initially small.

The thesis is now freely available to all, as a part of the Open Access Week 2017. Hawking said, "Each generation stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, just as I did as a young PhD student in Cambridge, inspired by the work of Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein. It's wonderful to hear how many people have already shown an interest in downloading my thesis – hopefully they won't be disappointed now that they finally have access to it."

Hawking's thesis, with a typed dedication to his supervisor and a handwritten message, "this dissertation is my original work – SW Hawking", set him on the path to becoming one of the most famous scientists in the world. He remains a commanding figure even decades after he was diagnosed with a form of motor neuron disease, soon after his 21st birthday, and was left with only two years to live.

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Stephen Hawking had studied physics at Oxford, though his father wanted him to take up medicine, as his own original choice of mathematics wasn't available. According to his website, "after three years and not very much work," Hawking was awarded a first-class honours degree. After that, he moved to Cambridge to undertake research in cosmology. He was the Lucasian professor of mathematics at the university from 1979 to 2009, a post that was once held by Isaac Newton. He still retains an office in the department and currently holds 12 honorary degrees.

The Cambridge University hopes that Hawking's thesis will encourage other former scholars, including 98 Nobel Prize winners, to make their work freely available online. From this October, all PhD graduates will be required to deposit a digital copy of their theses and will be requested to make them available for everyone to access them.