A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time


Stephen Hawking

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Brief History of Time can help.

A Brief History of Time Characters

Stephen Hawking

The author and narrator of the book, Hawking often appears as an active character given his vital role in the progress of modern physics. He took on a PhD despite his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s… (read full character analysis)

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica 1689, in which he outlined his theories about the celestial bodies, how they move in space and time, and the math to back it all up. He came up… (read full character analysis)

Albert Einstein

Einstein is perhaps most famous for his equation E = mc2. Once an unknown clerk in the Swiss patent office, Einstein first came to be known among the scientific community by writing a paper in… (read full character analysis)

Galileo Galilei

Astronomer Galileo had backed Nicholas Copernicus’s idea that the sun was at the center of the universe and that the planets, including the earth, all orbited it. This contradicted the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching… (read full character analysis)

Edwin Hubble

In 1924, American astronomer Hubble showed that our galaxy is not the only one. He calculated the distances between numerous galaxies, and in the process discovered the red shift—meaning light from distant galaxies was… (read full character analysis)
Get the entire A Brief History of Time LitChart as a printable PDF.
A brief history of time.pdf.medium


Yet to be proven by science, God appears frequently in A Brief History of Time, largely in the places where science does not yet have an answer. Stephen Hawking often considers whether God would… (read full character analysis)

Lay People

Stephen Hawking often refers to the importance of helping the lay person understand great scientific theories, as all of humanity is absorbed with the same line of questioning: why and how are we here? He… (read full character analysis)

Nicolas Copernicus

A Polish priest, Copernicus suggested a simpler model of the universe in 1514, when he argued that the planets, including the earth, orbit the sun. Previously, it has been thought the earth was at the… (read full character analysis)

Werner Heisenberg

In 1926, German scientist Heisenberg became famous for his uncertainty principle. The idea is that there is inherent uncertainty to all particles’ positions, and particles can act like waves, with a wider possible area… (read full character analysis)

Alexander Friedmann

A Russian physicist and mathematician, Friedmann made two assumptions about the universe in 1922: first, that is looks roughly the same in every direction, and second, this should be true from wherever one looks. These… (read full character analysis)

Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson

When testing a new, very sensitive microwave detector in 1965 at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, Penzias and Wilson discovered that the universe gives off a uniform level of background microwave radiation. This… (read full character analysis)

Roger Penrose

Penrose is a British mathematician and physicist who worked with Stephen Hawking on many matters relating to the general theory of relativity, black holes, and other areas of theoretical physics. In 1965 he… (read full character analysis)

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Chandrasekhar traveled from India to Cambridge in 1928 to study under Sir Arthur Eddington, who was an expert on general relativity. While on his voyage to England, he calculated how stars would collapse… (read full character analysis)

Jacob Bekenstein

A research student at Princeton, Bekenstein suggested a black hole’s event horizon area was a measure of its entropy, or disorder. That, in turn, would mean that black holes must emit energy, though… (read full character analysis)

Marquis de Laplace

The French scientist argued that the entire universe could be determined by the laws of science. He thought that by knowing scientific laws thoroughly, and where every single particle was in one point in time… (read full character analysis)

Sir Arthur Eddington

Eddington was a British astronomer based at Cambridge University who was an expert on general relativity. He was Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar’s supervisor, but disliked his ideas on stars collapsing to zero size and convinced… (read full character analysis)


An Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle believed the earth was stationary and sat at the center of the solar system with the sun and other planets orbiting it. He thought the world and everything in it… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Richard Feynman
Feynman was an American physicist who created the sum over histories idea. He said a particle doesn’t have one specific history, but rather all possible histories. This changed the way scientists approach studying the history of the universe.
Max Planck
This German scientist suggested that waves, such as light, are always emitted in certain amounts, called quanta, and never randomly. The implications this had on measuring the exact position or velocity of a particle led Werner Heisenberg to discover the uncertainty principle.