Watch Professor Stephen Hawking praise the inspirational maths teacher that changed his life

Professor Hawking (far left) at St Albans School. Credit: Herts Advertiser

The groundbreaking physicist said that it was thanks to his teacher that he had become a professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge

Professor Stephen Hawking has spoken about how one teacher opened his eyes to the “blueprint of the universe itself: mathematics”.

The celebrated physicist explained how teacher Dikran Tahta had helped him build his first computer while he was a student at St Albans School in Hertfordshire.

Describing himself as a lazy pupil with bad handwriting, Professor Hawking [below, far left as a schoolboy] said the maths teacher helped change this by making classes lively and exciting.

In a video released to coincide with the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which is due to be awarded at a ceremony in Dubai this weekend, Prof Hawking added that it was thanks to Mr Tahta that he had become a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.

In the video, he says: “It all starts with the seed of love. The love of music, the love of history… for me it was the love of science.

“At St Albans School, there was an inspirational maths teacher, Mr Tahta [below]. He opened my eyes to the blueprint of the universe itself: mathematics.

“I wasn’t the best student at all. My handwriting was bad, and I could be lazy. Many teachers were boring. Not Mr Tahta. His classes were lively and exciting. Everything could be debated. Together we built my first computer, it was made with electro mechanical switches.

“Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of mathematics at Cambridge, in a position once held by Isaac Newton.”

He adds: “I have spent my life attempting to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Mr Tahta in the 1950s. Credit: The Tahta family

“When each of us thinks about what we can do in life, chances are, we can do it because of a teacher. Behind every exceptional person, there is an exceptional teacher. Today, we need great teachers more than ever.”

The global teacher prize, which is worth a million dollars (£704,000), recognises an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. UK maths teacher Colin Hegarty is among the final 10 shortlisted for this year’s award.

The announcement of the winner will be made live in Dubai on Sunday.

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