Stephen Hawking has won one of the most prestigious prizes in popular science writing for his latest book, The Universe in a Nutshell. Hawking’s book beat 82 other entries to scoop the 2002 Aventis Prize for Science Books, which is worth £10 000. Reviewing The Universe in a Nutshell for Physics World last year, astrophysicist Joseph Silk of Oxford University called it “a delight to read” and said that it was “far more accessible” than Hawking’s previous bestseller, A Brief History of Time.
The award was announced last night at the Science Museum in London by the chair of the panel of judges, Raj Persaud, a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in London. “This book made a real effort to enliven the subject through readable text and clear illustration,” he said. “It has the production values of a real 21st century book. Even if you don’t understand the entire book, you will still gain so much by a story told by an extraordinary mind.”
The prize confirms that Hawking has succeeded in writing about theoretical physics in layman’s terms in The Universe in a Nutshell. In contrast, A Brief History of Time – which sold over 25 million copies worldwide – was widely considered to be too difficult for a general readership.
But some people remain unconvinced by Hawking’s latest book, which is published by Bantam. Writing in The Guardian, critic Mark Lawson said that he “understood even less of it than I did A Brief History of Time.”
Hawking has been Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge since 1979, the post that was held by Newton and Dirac. He celebrated his 60th birthday in January with a meeting organized by the university to reflect on Hawking’s contributions to cosmology and theoretical physics.