The world's most celebrated physicist of the modern era died Wednesday, mourned internationally for his inimitable brilliance and spirit in the face of debilitating disease. But he wasn't without domestic woes familiar to millions. Stephen Hawking was married twice, with both unions ending in divorce.
Hawking is survived by three children, three grandchildren, and both of his ex-wives. His 30-year first marriage to Jane Hawking, née Jane Wilde, was the focal point of 2014's Oscar-nominated film The Theory of Everything. But while that first marriage was reportedly far from perfect, it was allegations made against his second wife that set off international headlines. Hawking's second marriage to Elaine Mason sparked rumors of abuse, after the renowned mathematician suffered a series of inexplicable injuries.
Hawking is famous for refusing to allow amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) to define his life. After receiving the devastating diagnosis at the age of 21 — along with a doctor's prediction he would not survive past two years — Hawking went on to reach the age of 76, becoming one of the world's preeminent theorists on quantum physics along the way.
In his personal life, Hawking pursued his first wife, Jane, after learning of his ALS condition. The two got married in 1965, despite the lack of enthusiastic approval from Hawking's parents. According to Jane Hawking, her mother-in-law once told her that she was disliked because she "didn't fit in" with the "eccentric" Hawking family.
Jane Hawking revealed she eventually struggled with playing the joint roles of wife and full-time caretaker, describing a complex relationship between her and her first husband. (She has since remarried.)
The Theory of Everything was based on Jane Hawking's memoir of her marriage, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen. In a 2015 interview with The Telegraph's Celia Warden, Jane Hawking said that her life during those years made her at times consider suicide. She and Hawking had three children together: Lucy, Robert, and Tim.
Their marriage eventually ended in 1995 when Hawking filed for divorce and married one of his nurses, Elaine Mason. (The two had been living together for five years by that point.) It is this second marriage that has fueled some explosive headlines about potential spousal abuse after reports surfaced of two police investigations into unexplained injuries suffered by Hawking. Both investigations were dropped without any official charges being filed.
Hawking's mysterious injuries included a fractured wrist, broken femur, a black eye, and heatstroke suffered after being left outside in the summer for hours unattended, according to one of his nurses. Hawking's children, his first wife, and a number of former employees have all stated their belief that these were not accidents, but rather abuse at the hands of Mason. Mason has refused to comment on the allegations.
Hawking has repeatedly denied the allegations. At the time of the second police investigation, Hawking issued a statement saying "I firmly and wholeheartedly reject the accusations." Their marriage ended in 2006 after 11 years, without public explanation from either Hawking or Mason.
While both of Hawking's marriages ultimately ended in divorce, he had been on good terms with Jane and his children for the past several years. In fact, Hawking lived just down the street from his first wife during his last years of life, and they would regularly get together as friends. Their three children issued a joint statement on their father's passing, calling Hawking a "great scientist and extraordinary man" who "inspired people across the world."
We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world.
"He once said, 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love,'" they added. "We will miss him forever."