Despite their divorce, Stephen Hawking’s first wife continued to support him throughout his illness. The love affair and marriage between Stephen and Jane Hawking was made famous by the 2014 Oscar-winning movie, The Theory of Everything. The couple met in 1962 at Cambridge University, a year before Stephen was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Their love prevailed, becoming engaged in 1963 and marrying in 1965. In 1967, Jane gave birth to the first of the couple’s three children, Robert, with Lucy following in 1970 and Timothy being born in 1979.
The couple divorced in 1995 having first separated in 1990. Jane married musician Jonathan Jones in 1997 but still remained close to Stephen, aiding him in his work. Jane released two autobiographical books about her first husband, 1999’s Music to Move the Stars: A Life With Stephen and Traveling to Infinity: My Live With Stephen.
In a statement released on March 14, Stephen and Jane’s children announced the famed scientists passing. The children wrote, “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. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stephen & Jane Stopped Having Sex in the 1980s
Among the more infamous chapters of Stephen’s life was the period in which it was publicly announced in 1990 that he was leaving the mother of this children for nurse, Elaine Mason. The couple married in September 1995. Writer Kitty Ferguson wrote in Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind that Stephen and Jane’s marriage had become strained during the 1980s because of Stephen’s new relationship with Elaine Mason. Jane told Vanity Fair in 2004 that she had stopped having sex with Stephen in the 1980s because she “was afraid he would die in the act of love.”
Also in the 1980s, the man who was to become Jane’s second husband, choirmaster Jonathan Jones, became “frequently seen” around the Hawking house, according to Vanity Fair. Though Jane is adamant that her relationship with Jonathan Jones was plutonic until her marriage was over. When Stephen found about the relationship between Jonathan Jones and Jane, the scientist “generously accepted” it.
It was only after Stephen split from Elaine Mason after she was accused of abusing him that the scientist began to reconnect wit the mother of his children. Jane wrote in the Radio Times in 2015, “After Stephen’s second divorce, it became possible for us to communicate again. He lives ten minutes away from us and I call in on him every so often to discuss family matters.”
2. Jane Said of Felicity Jones’ 2014 Portrayal: ‘I Thought She Was Me’
Jane was a huge fan of Felicity Jones’ 2014 portrayal. In an interview, Jane said that Jones was “astounding,” adding, “I thought, ‘How can I be on the screen and in a cinema seat at the same time?'” Jones lost her Oscar bid to Julianne Moore who won for Still Alice. Jones was equally a big fan of Jane saying, “My instinct was when you’re playing a real person you want to get that person’s blessing and that’s just building up trust with each other… Jane is incredibly open, she showed me photos of her and Stephen when they first met and I really felt I was getting this glimpse into an intimate side of their lives..”
3. Jane Has a Doctorate in Medieval Spanish Poetry From Cambridge University
In 1981, Jane received a doctorate of her own, in medieval Spanish poetry, according to a Radio Times feature. Jane wrote in the feature that she “decided I had to do this, because without some kind of academic identity in Cambridge in those days, a mere wife and mother was a nobody. Also, we were at that stage quite poor and we had three young children: Robert, Lucy and Tim.”
4. Jane Has Credited Her Christianity Has Helping Her Through Her Marriage to Stephen
In a 2004 Vanity Fair feature, Jane’s relationship with Stephen was discussed at length. The piece says that Jane credited her Christian faith as giving her hope as Stephen’s condition continued to worsen. Famously, Hawking was an avowed atheist and rejected Jane’s beliefs, some thing she thought was “very, very cruel.” Jane wrote in the Radio Times that she met her second husband through singing in her church choir.
5. Jane Has Long Advocated for More Funding From the British Government for Those With Disabilities
Able Magazine reported in 2015 that Jane, who had been an advocate for disabled causes, that she was calling for further funding from the British government for disabled people. In a speech at Buckingham Palace, the Conservative government policy in the UK needed a “big overhaul” as well as needing a “stronger tax policy.” Jane added, “I think the Government needs to do a big overhaul of its policy towards disabled people, towards people with degenerative illnesses and it needs to provide much better support and it needs to have a system for vetting carers who go into people’s homes.” Although when asked if she thought anything would change, Jane said, “No, not at the moment, but I do think that a stronger tax policy, taxing firms who make millions in this country and yet do not pay any tax… the money should go towards this very particular cause.”
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