A Brief History of Time

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A Brief History of Time (subtitled "From the Big Bang to Black Holes") is a popular science book written by Stephen Hawking and first published by the Bantam Dell Publishing Group in 1988.[1] It became a best-seller and has sold more than 10 million copies.[2] It was also on the London Sunday Times best-seller list for more than four years.[3]



A Brief History of Time attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes and light cones, to the nonspecialist reader. Its main goal is to give an overview of the subject but, unusual 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 would be halved, hence it includes only a single equation: E = mc2. In addition to Hawking's notable abstention from presenting equations, the book also simplifies matters by means of illustrations throughout the text, depicting complex models and diagrams.

The book ends with: "If we find [a unified theory], it would be the ultimate triumph — for then we would know the mind of god".[4]


  • 1988: First edition. It included an Introduction by Carl Sagan that tells the following story: Sagan was in London for a scientific conference in 1974, and between sessions he wandered into a different room, where a larger meeting was taking place. "I realized that I was watching an ancient ceremony: the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society, one of the most ancient scholarly organizations on the planet. In the front row, a young man in a wheelchair was, very slowly, signing his name in a book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton... Stephen Hawking was a legend even then." In his Introduction, Sagan goes on to add that Hawking is the "worthy successor" to Newton and P. A. M. Dirac, both former Lucasian Professors of Mathematics.[5]

The Introduction disappeared after the first edition. It was copyrighted by Sagan, rather than by Hawking or the publisher, and the publisher did not have the right to reprint it forever. Hawking wrote his own introduction for later editions.

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