Why a Google Doodle is honouring Stephen Hawking this weekend, and how it uses his voice
Google is releasing a special Doodle this weekend, honouring Stephen Hawking on what would have been his 80th birthday.
It features a two and a half-minute long video which uses Hawking’s own computer-generated voice – despite the legendary theoretical physicist dying in 2018.
The Doodle tells the story of his life and work using 8-bit-style animation, going live at midnight on Saturday 8 January for more than 50 countries.
Hawking is one of the best-known scientists of the modern era.
His most notable works include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation, which was considered a major breakthrough in theoretical physics.
Hawking was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, and previously spent 30 years as the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the same university.
His book, A Brief History of Time, spent a record 237 weeks on the Sunday Times bestseller list.
Hawking was born in Oxford on 8 January 1942. Both of his parents, Frank and Isobel, worked in medicine. He graduated from the University of Oxford with a first-class degree in physics, before gaining a PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics from Cambridge.
In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
It eventually left him paralysed and unable to speak, which led to him using a speech-generating device to talk with a robotic voice – something which became an iconic part of his identity.
Hawking initially controlled this using a handheld device, and then later by using his cheek muscle.
How was the Google Doodle made?
The animation was created by Matthew Cruickshank, and Hawking’s own computer-generated voice was used, with the permission of his estate, to narrate his life story.
Hawking’s daughter, Lucy and sons, Robert and Tim, said of the Doodle: ‘”We are delighted that Google has chosen to celebrate our father’s 80th birthday with this fabulous Doodle. We think he would have loved the Doodle and been very entertained to see his long, distinguished life expressed so creatively in this briefest history of all, a two-minute animation!
“We also believe he would have found it important to show that he never allowed the challenges of his physical condition to limit his power of expression nor his determination to make an impact on the world in which he lived.
“We hope that his example offers inspiration and hope globally to all who face great challenges at this difficult time. Our father would have been 80 years old today and we thank everyone who has joined in the celebration of his extraordinary life and the legacy he gave to us all.”