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History Note: Remembering Stephen Hawking

In 1992, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking joined CIFAR as an associate fellow in the Cosmology program.

The program had a focus on theoretical gravity, and one of the questions it asked was what happens to information inside of a black hole. Hawking believed it was destroyed, while particle physicists in the program argued that it must be recoverable. Associate Fellow Leonard Susskind, who would eventually show that Hawking was wrong on this point, once described Hawking as “the most infuriating person in the universe.”

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking at the University of Alberta in 1992.

Later that year, program members would meet in Banff to celebrate the 60th birthday of Werner Israel, a close collaborator with Hawking on studies of general relativity. Following a celebratory discussion called “Black Holes, White Holes and Wormholes” in Banff, many members went to Edmonton for a CIFAR-sponsored lecture at the University of Alberta. Hawking discussed the future of the universe on stage with Israel and Senior Fellow Don Page. Page had studied under Hawking as did Raymond Laflamme, who is currently a senior fellow in CIFAR’s Quantum Information Science program.

On March 14, 2018, Hawking passed away at the age of 76. He changed the way we look at the universe and left an indelible mark on CIFAR and its global research community.

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