Physicists Werner Israel and Stephen Hawking share a chat. (Photo UVic.ca)

Physicists Werner Israel and Stephen Hawking share a chat. (Photo UVic.ca)

Book donated to University of Victoria reveals forgotten letter from Stephen Hawking

First-edition Hawking book yields personalized letter to UVic prof

The donation of a vintage first-edition Stephen Hawking book made to the University of Victoria Libraries archive this year yielded an additional prize.

Folded inside the book – a 1973 copy of the book The large scale structure of space-time by Hawking and G.F.R. Ellis – was a personalized letter from the famous English physicist, Hawking, to the book’s owner, retired UVic professor emeritus and physicist Werner Israel.

Now 87, Israel was once a colleague of Hawking’s and co-edited two published works, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey and Three Hundred Years of Gravitation. His donation to UVic Libraries includes plenty of books but the biggest find was the letter, as reported in the recent issue of the Ring Magazine.

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“Library staff discovered a signed letter from Stephen to Israel, dated February 6, 1981 … the letter was tucked into the back dust jacket, along with two newspaper clippings about Hawking’s latest accomplishment, and Israel’s pencilled summary of important formulae on the flyleaf.”

Israel added that his role in editing the books used his expertise but did not involve active research, he said.

“…There was no need for daily consultation after the initial planning of topics and authors. I undertook most of the routine work, which would have been a burden for Stephen. But it was, of course, Stephen’s name and charisma which brought ready acceptances from all of the distinguished authors we invited.”

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Later, Hawking nominated Israel for “Fellowship of the Royal Society” which he achieved in 1986.

Werner still volunteers with ESL students and lives with his wife Inge. 

reporter@saanichnews.com


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