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Stephen Hawking wrote A Brief History of Time to help us comprehend the workings of the universe.


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A Brief History of Time is a popular science book written by Professor Stephen Hawking and first published in 1988. A Brief History of Time rapidly became a best-seller, and had sold 9 million copies by 2002. A Brief History of Time was also on the London Sunday Times best-seller list for 237 weeks.

In 1991 A Brief History of Time became a film by Errol Morris and included Stephen Hawking himself.

A Brief History of Time: Book contents.

A Brief History of Time.
Cover of the book A Brief History of Time.

A Brief History of Time attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes, light cones and superstring theory, to the nonspecialist reader. Its main goal is to give an overview of the subject but, unusually for a popular science book, it also attempts to explain some complex mathematics.

The author notes that an editor warned him that for every equation in the book the readership will be halved, hence it includes only a single equation: E=mc˛.

In addition to Hawking's abstinence from equations, the book also simplifies matters by means of illustrations throughout the text, depicting complex models and diagrams.

A Brief History of Time is considered by many to be an "unread bestseller" which is a book many people own but few have finished.

There is also a documentary by the same name, directed by Errol Morris, released in 1991.

Editions of A Brief History of Time.

  • 1988. First Edition. This edition included a foreword or introduction by Carl Sagan that tells the following story: Sagan was in London in 1974 (presumably for a SETI conference), and between sessions wandered into a different room, where a larger meeting was taking place. "At the front of the room, a young man in a wheelchair was signing his name very slowly in a very large book, which bore on an earlier page the name of Isaac Newton. I realised that I was watching an ancient ceremony: the induction of a new Fellow into the Royal Society." The young man was, of course, Hawking, already famous in his field but not famous worldwide until the publication of this improbable bestseller by this improbable author. (The foreword disappeared after the first edition, or perhaps the first printing. It was copyrighted by Sagan, rather than by Hawking or the publisher, and the publisher did not have the right to reprint it forever.).
  • 1996 - Illustrated, updated and expanded edition. This hardbound edition contained full colour illustrations and photographs to help further explain the text, as well as the addition of topics that were not included in the original book.
  • 1998 - The Tenth Anniversary Edition - Is the same text as the previous published in 1996, but was also released in paperback and has only a few diagrams included.

September of 2005 saw the release of A Briefer History of Time (a collaboration with Leonard Mlodinow), which is an abridged version of the original book. It was updated again to address new issues that have arisen due to further scientific development.

Film: A Brief History of Time.

A Brief History of Time (1991 film)
A Brief History of Time.
A Brief History of Time (film)
Directed by Errol Morris
Produced by David Hickman
Written by Stephen Hawking (book)
Starring Stephen Hawking
Music by Philip Glass
Cinematography John Bailey
Release date(s) October, 1991
Running time 80 min.
Language English
IMDb profile

A Brief History of Time is a 1991 biopic about Stephen Hawking directed by Errol Morris. Unlike the book of the same name, this film is more or less a look at the life of the noted cosmologist.

A Brief History of Time in pop culture.

  • In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ian Brown (lead singer of the Stone Roses) is seen sitting in the Leaky Cauldron reading this book. This same person is also reading the book in the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  • The book makes an appearance in the film Donnie Darko when Donnie's teacher shows him the book during a conversation about time travel.
  • In the 2001 comedy film Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon, one of the Harvard students on Elle Woods' first day mentions that: 'It has been suggested that Stephen Hawking stole his Brief History of Time from my fourth-grade paper'.
  • In the film Addams Family Values, Joel Glicker is briefly shown holding it after stating why he is in the Harmony Hut.
  • It has also been featured in "Weird Al" Yankovic's music clip of his song "White & Nerdy", where "Weird Al" claims that he has Stephen Hawking in his library, while holding this book.
  • In the hit TV show Lost, one of the Others is seen reading the book while on guard duty. Additionally, a character introduced in the 2/14/2007 episode, "Flashes Before Your Eyes," during what appears to be a time-bending event is named Ms. Hawking.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Billy was assigned to write a report according to a book called "A Not So Brief History of Time" which he confused for a horror story.



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