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Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind (MacSci) Hardcover – January 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Ferguson shines at explaining Hawking's theories, the jovially competitive academic world in which they are hammered out and her subject's distinctive and evolving intellectual style…An irresistible story. His puckish humor and exuberance for life and for ideas are infectious even at a remove. And the ideas themselves could not ask for a better elucidator.” ―Laura Miller, Salon

“Intelligent and readable… Kitty Ferguson is astonishing in her own right…. She is a careful explicator not only of [Hawkings'] ideas but of the context in which they arose.” ―Sara Lippincott, The Los Angeles Times

“Ferguson provides engaging and helpful explanations of the physics behind [Hawking's] triumphs.” ―The Washington Post

“Ferguson replaces the iconic but static image of cosmologist Hawking with flesh and blood in this vivid portrait… Through interviews with Hawking and his colleagues, friends, and family, Ferguson builds a complete picture of Hawking's life, from his tireless work to explain our universe to his notorious driving, playful appearances on Star Trek, The Simpsons, and other shows, campaigning to improve the lives of the disabled, and his family life, with special attention to his relationship with his first wife, Jane, whose sacrifices allowed him to focus on his work. In the end, Ferguson captures the very full life and work of one of the most vibrant minds of our time.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Ferguson brilliantly updates her 1991 children's biography of Stephen Hawking for an adult audience . . . Her ability to write clearly about scientific issues using metaphor rather than mathematics makes this an excellent introduction to astrophysics for the interested layman. A fascinating portrait of a complex figure who ponders the place of man and God in the universe and who still loves the 'Eureka moment of discovering something that no one knew before.'” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Kitty Ferguson gives a thorough account of Hawking the man, as well as of his extraordinary body of work in cosmology. [She has] a flair for the original which makes much of the tome highly readable. There are excellently clear descriptions of the large issues and precious few off-putting mathematics and equations...Ferguson pitches the balance between Hawking's personal life and an explanation of his work about right.” ―Greg Jamison, Entertainment Focus

“As both a global icon and an innovative theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking is well served by science writer Kitty Ferguson's fascinating biography. Ferguson explains in accessible terms the major themes that Hawking has explored in his career, and creates a portrait of the pri­vate man by drawing on her close personal contact with him and his family. ... Ferguson's sympathetic and informed take on an individual who has enriched human knowledge against the odds is an excellent summing-up, as Hawking approaches his 70th birthday, of his unique and creative contribution to both science and humanity.” ―George Ellis, Nature

“More than a biography … a brave attempt to chart the life of the celebrated physicist in parallel with his astounding and important work…. Ferguson has spent a lot of time with Hawking and as a scientist she attempts to explain in lay terms the fundamental concepts of Hawking's vast and amazing body of work.” ―Bertrams

About the Author

Kitty Ferguson has been writing and lecturing about science and scientists for over two decades, making the language and concepts of physics and cosmology understandable for audiences without a scientific background. Her 1991 biography of Stephen Hawking, written with his encouragement and help, was an international best-seller. She was a consultant for Hawking's book The Universe in a Nutshell. Kitty is the author of seven books including The Fire in the Equations and The Music of Pythagoras. She has also been interviewed by Forbes Magazine, PBS, "News Hour with Jim Lehrer," and the BBC. She lectures widely in North America, and her appearances have included the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and many universities. Kitty and her husband divide their time between Cambridge, England and South Carolina.


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Product Details

  • Series: MacSci
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230340601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230340602
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By B&J on January 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What a fascinating read. I'm no science student and yet Ferguson's simple explanations of the most complex theories makes one feel like one might be able to understand what Hawking is talking about. This isn't the first Kitty Ferguson book I've read and I certainly hope it won't be the last as her voice helps illuminate people, theories and periods in time in such an accessible, interesting and at times humorous way. Highly recommend. (note I see a reviewer here only gave it two stars, hmmm.... See he also gave To Kill A Mocking Bird only two also. Go figure)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Putman on March 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To many people Stephen Hawking is an icon of mathematical genius, a symbol somewhat like Einstein has become. Kitty Ferguson's biography does a terrific job of making Hawking a full-fledged human being, a statement that sounds silly until one sees the hero worship that often attaches to Hawking's name. She alternates between Hawking's personal life and his achievements in astrophysics. Readers in Britain may be much more familiar with the personal aspects of Hawking's life given the press coverage. But in the United States the man who held the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge (always followed by the note that Newton held this position) is much more unknown and this biography does a fine job of putting Hawking's entire life into written form.

The role of Jane Hawking in Stephen's life cannot be overestimated. She was there for him through the most critical moments of his disease and it is hard to imagine what would have happened without her. Ferguson details Jane's work and her conflict between her own goals and her role as Hawking's wife. Some other reviews have criticized the book for skirting the charges of abuse to Hawking which followed him during his second marriage. More may be coming out at some point but when the biography was written Hawking refused to discuss the issue. Without his input Ferguson cannot do much more than mention the issue without speculating. Ferguson worked with Hawking closely not only on this book but in her earlier 1991 biography of him. This biography highlights the positive - Hawking's mathematical genius, his genuine sense of humor, his popular books to explain his ideas, and his work for the disabled.
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Format: Hardcover

"Hawking's life story and his science are rife with paradoxes. Things are often not what they seem. Here is a tale in which beginnings are endings, cruel circumstances lead to happiness, although fame and success do not; two brilliant and highly successful scientific theories taken together yield nonsense; empty space isn't empty after all; and black holes aren't black. In the twenty-first century, the effort to unite everything in a simple explanation is revealing, instead, a fragmented picture. And most paradoxical of all, a man whose physical appearance inspires shock and pity has led us joyfully to where the boundaries of time and space ought to be--but are not."

The above comes from this in-depth book by Kitty Ferguson. Ferguson has been writing and lecturing about science and scientists for over two decades. She is the author a seven books.

This book, in a nutshell, is a biography about theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (born in 1942, three hundred years after the death of Galileo in 1642). Hawking is known for the following:

(1) black holes (a region of space-time where gravity prevents anything, including light, from escaping)
(2) theoretical cosmology (physical cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole)
(3) quantum gravity (concerned with scientific models that unify quantum mechanics or the very small with general relativity or the very large)
(4) Hawking radiation (radiation predicted to be emitted by black holes)
(5) the phenomenal international bestseller "A Brief History of Time" (1988)
(6) the controversial bestseller (written with physicist Leonard Mlodinow) "The Grand Design (2010)

On Jan. 8, 2012, Hawking turned 70.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Baker on September 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I greatly enjoyed this read. Ms. Ferguson is a splendid writer, with an excellent command of science and cosmology and an equal ability to succinctly explain difficult concepts to the lay reader. She offers a sympathetic portrait of this brilliant man. However, I would have given this book at least one more star if Ms. Ferguson had not almost ruined the reading experience by constant attempts to undermine Hawking's atheism and his agnostic approach to science. Although never stating her own obvious Christian beliefs, she can't resist frequent efforts to drag in the concept of a God-created universe, twisting Hawking's statements to very subtly, yet transparently, defend the Christian viewpoint on creation. It weakens the book and was a nagging irritant throughout. The second fault is Ms. Ferguson's failure to study Hawking's relationship with his nurse Elaine Mason, whom he left his first wife to marry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. D. Bekendam (author) on May 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this and found it quite interesting. I knew very little about Stephen Hawking prior to picking this up, although I had read his Brief History of Time and The Grand Design. Pay no heed to the critical reviews that have so far been posted. This biography is well-written, appears balanced, and provides a nice overview of Hawking's life so far, while simultaneously giving a comprehendible summary of the past several decades of developments in the field of Cosmology. Regardless of what critics think of Hawking's true achievements (or lack of), he is a fascinating character and worth learning about and from.

Stephen Hawking has provided me with much to ponder over the past ten years and I am grateful for his efforts to make the workings of his mind accessible to the rest of us. Kitty Ferguson has done a marvelous job introducing Hawking to us to the best of her ability. I can only imagine the monumental task of tackling the complexities of telling the story of this man and his science. Well done.
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