The celebrity scientist and black hole expert, who was given just months to live after being diagnosed in 1963 with a form of Motor Neuron Disease (MND), was to address a daylong conference on cosmology.
The BBC reported that Hawking had only been discharged from hospital on Friday. A recorded version of his lecture, which called for the continued exploration of space, was played to conference attendees in his absence.
The title of his lecture, “A Brief History of Mine”, was a play on his first book, “A Brief History of Time”, which has sold more than 10 million copies internationally and brought complex scientific ideas to a wider audience, the Guardian reports.
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, the physicist and Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter, and Hawking’s collaborator Kip Thorne all delivered lectures at the conference.
Hawking’s condition has left him almost completely paralysed and he now uses an electronic voice synthesiser to communicate, having lost the ability to speak after an emergency tracheotomy in 1985.
According to the Guardian, Rees said marking Hawking’s birthday with the birthday symposium “was a chance to thank him for the many insights he’s given us about the universe, and for all he’s done to present scientific ideas to a wide public – and above all for the inspiration he’s offered to millions by achieving so much, against all the odds”.
Hawking – who has made guest appearances on TV shows The Simpsons and Star Trek – has received 12 honorary degrees and been named a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), according to the BBC. In 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama.
He retired from his post as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge later that year, having held the chair for three decades, but continues to work at the university. His most recent book, entitled “The Grand Design” and co-authored with fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow, was published last year.