Cosmic: Hawking to write children's book

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Stephen Hawking, the cosmologist and best-selling author, is to write a children's book with his daughter Lucy who cryptically said yesterday that it will be "a bit like Harry Potter" but without the magic.

Professor Hawking's A Brief History of Time was one of the biggest-selling science books and he has even written an easy-to-read sequel called A Briefer History of Time. His daughter said the forthcoming project would be aimed at children but she declined to name the publisher or publication date.

"It is a story for children, which explains the wonders of the universe," was all that she was prepared to say.

Professor Hawking is one of the best-known scientists in the world and he has had cameo roles in Star Trek and The Simpsons. Publishers are expected to be excited at the prospect of a children's book on cosmology, which even adults should be able to understand.

A Brief History of Time has sold a total of more than 10 million copies since it was published in 1988, but its difficult subject matter on the origins of time and the universe has earned it a reputation for being the least-read bestseller in history.

Professor Hawking suffers from motor neurone disease, a debilitating condition that has left him almost totally paralysed, but it has not stopped him from making fundamental contributions to cosmology and theoretical physics.

He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, an academic chair held by Sir Isaac Newton in 1663. His specialist interest is in the physics of black holes and his academic achievements are even more remarkable given his disability, which forces him to communicate through a computerised voice synthesiser.

"I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work," Professor Hawking once said.

He and his daughter are on a six-day visit to Hong Kong where Lucy gave the first indication that they were both embarking on a joint publishing venture.

Professor Hawking has a total of 12 honorary degrees; he was appointed CBE in 1982 and Companion of Honour in 1989. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has three children and one grandchild and conducts extensive research into theoretical physics, as well as giving lectures.