The Royal Mint has announced that the life of one of the world’s most well-known physicists, the late Stephen Hawking, is to be celebrated on a 50p coin.
The scientist – and his ground-breaking achievements – will be honoured on a 50p piece featuring a design influenced by Hawking’s pioneering work on black holes. This work, which used a tentative unification of Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics, reported that black holes should not be completely black, instead emitting radiation, meaning they evaporate and eventually disappear.
Termed ‘Hawking Radiation’, this was an unexpected but highly influential development. Hawking also theorised, using a mathematical construct known as imaginary time, that the universe has no edge or boundary. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science. These theories and phenomena are explained in his most famous work, A Brief History of Time.
As he said in his own words in an interview for the BBC: “I think my greatest achievement will be my discovery that black holes are not entirely black.”
Stephen Hawking is one of an elite group of scientists to have been honoured on UK coinage, alongside the likes of Sir Isaac Newton in 2017 and Charles Darwin in 2009. The coin is a commemorative issue only, vailable direct from the Royal Mint in BU and precious metal strikings but it will not be for general circulation so we are unlikely to find one in our change!