Stephen Hawking (1942 - )
Stephen Hawking grew up north of London. He excelled in mathematics, however at his father's request he studied chemistry so he could attend Oxford. After taking entrance exams for Oxford, he was awarded a scholarship. While in school Hawking specialized in physics. After receiving his degree, Hawking went to Cambridge to study relativity and cosmology.
At the end of his first semester at Cambridge (Christmas 1962) he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Lou Gehrigs disease. The disease would eventually worsen and confine him to a wheelchair.
Upon completion of his doctorate in 1966, Hawking was awarded a fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Since 1979 Hawking has held the Lucasian professorship in mathematics, the same chair that was held three hundred years earlier by Sir Isaac Newton.
In 1985 Hawking developed pneumonia and almost died. A life saving tracheotomy was performed, but resulted in Hawking losing his ability to speak. He now communicates using a computer system that generates an electronic voice.
Hawking's contributions have been in the area of general relativity, gravity, and quantum theory, with emphasis in the area of black holes. His research focuses on the attempt by scientists to unite quantum theory and gravity through general relativity into a generalized theory that would span from the smallest subatomic particles to the expanse of the Universe.
Sergei P. Korolev (1906 - 1966)
Sergei P. Korolev was an aeronautical engineer and co-founder of the Moscow rocketry organization. In the 1930's, Korolev designed Russia's first rocket propelled aircraft. It was Korolev's R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that launched Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. During the early 1960's Korolev lobbied to send a Soviet cosmonaut to the Moon. Unfortunately, the Russian government canceled Korolev's project, and his N-1 launch vehicle never made a successful flight.
Hermann Oberth (1894 - 1989)
Was a German rocket pioneer who was known as one of the founding fathers of rocketry and modern astronautics.
In 1923, Oberth published the ninety two page "The Rocket into Planetary Space" which was followed by a longer version in 1929. This extended version was internationally regarded as a work of tremendous scientific importance.
In Oberth's final chapter of "The Rocket into Planetary Spaes" he envisioned that, "the rockets...can be built so powerfully that they could be capable of carrying a man aloft." Thus, in 1923 Oberth became the first scientist to prove that rockets could put a man into space.
Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)
Clyde Tombaugh was an American astronomer who discovered the planet Pluto. In 1929, Tombaugh was hired as a junior astronomer to join in the search for a "Planet X" beyond Neptune. He made world news on March 13, 1930 when his discovery of the ninth planet, Pluto was confirmed.
Over the next thirteen years he discovered six star clusters, two comets, hundreds of asteroids, several dozen clusters of galaxies, and one super-cluster. He was also instrumental in determining the vortex nature of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the rotation period of Mercury on it's axis and in the development of a new photographic technique to monitor small Earth satellites.