The Truth About Stephen Hawking's Ex-Wife, Jane

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In 2007, Jane Hawking, the former wife of acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, published "Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen Hawking." For 30 years, Jane Hawking was married to Stephen Hawking, with whom she had three children. Early on, she was Stephen Hawking's primary caretaker after he was diagnosed with debilitating ALS in 1963, a condition that's sometimes called Lou Gehrig's Disease, while still in his 20s. "Travelling to Infinity" is Jane Hawking's memoir of her life spent with Stephen. In 2014, the book was adapted into the critically-acclaimed movie "The Theory of Everything" (via IMDb). Jane Hawking took exception to some changes that film producers made to the true story.

Against all odds, Hawking lived with ALS for more than 50 years, and for roughly two decades after his split with Jane Hawking (via NBC News). He is also the author of the scientific bestseller "A Brief History of Time." While still married to Stephen, there was incredible pressure put on Jane Hawking to care for her husband while he balanced his condition, his career, while they also maintained their family life. In 2015, Jane Hawking said (via The Telegraph), "Sometimes life was just so dreadful, so physically and mentally exhausting, that I wanted to throw myself in the river — although of course I stopped myself because of the children." In 2015, Jane also told The Guardian there were four partners in her marriage: Stephen, Jane, motor neuron disease, and physics.

They met at Cambridge University

Born Jane Beryl Wilde (via IMDb), Hawking met Stephen Hawking a few years prior to his ALS diagnosis. Nonetheless, the couple were engaged to be married at Trinity Hall on the Cambridge University Campus in 1965, as The Guardian notes. From there, Jane took the brunt of her husband's worsening ALS, as well as his ascendant fame in the scientific community. All throughout, Jane Hawking managed to maintain her own identity, furthering her own career with a Ph.D. in medieval Spanish poetry in 1981, as Heavy reports.

Try as she might, Jane Hawking was never able to bond with her husband over physics. Her passion remained the study of languages. With her Ph.D. in tow, Jane also taught at a university during this period, according to The Guardian. Besides a difference in scholarly interests, yet another wedge between Jane and Stephen was their religious backgrounds. Jane was wholeheartedly Christian, and motivated by her Christian beliefs, while Stephen was not. Jane has said that figuring out whether Stephen was atheist or agnostic was a lifelong puzzle for her. More strain was put on their marriage in 1988, when Stephen's influential book, "A Brief History of Time" was released.

Jane Hawking is now an author

After the release of Stephen Hawking's groundbreaking book "A Brief History of Time," Jane Hawking told The Telegraph that all sorts of new people entered her circle, and that the Hawking home life at that point was intolerable. In particular, Stephen's new nurses fawned over him while treating everyone else in the house like second-class citizens. It soon became clear that Stephen had fallen for one of his nurses, Elaine Mason. Stephen and Jane separated in 1990. The formal divorce was not until 1995, per Newsweek. Stephen married Elaine that same year.

After divorcing Stephen, Jane married a musician named Jonathan Jones in 1997, whom she'd grown close to at the tail-end of her difficult marriage to Stephen, per The Guardian. After publishing her Hawking memoir in 2007, Jane continued to work as an author. Her most recent work of historical fiction, "Cry to Dream Again," came out in 2018. In 2006, Stephen divorced his second wife Elaine, and at that point, the friendship was re-established between Jane and Stephen. Despite how their marriage ended, Jane told The Telegraph in 2015, "I feel a great deal of admiration [for Stephen Hawking] — and a lot of love for him too." 

The film, "The Theory of Everything" detailing parts of Jane and Stephen's relationship as well as Stephen's career, was released in 2014. Jane Hawking was portrayed by Felicity Jones (pictured) and Eddie Redmayne starred as Stephen Hawking (via IMDb).

Jane Hawking's issues with The Theory of Everything

Despite the fact that Jane and Stephen Hawking made peace with one another before he died in 2018 at the age of 76 (via NBC News), Jane Hawking still disagreed with some changes that writers and producers made to her book when they adapted her story. Where Jane most diverged from the screenwriters was in really how hard their life was early on given Hawking's health circumstances and his budding scientific career. In 2018, Jane Hawking told The Guardian that "The Theory of Everything" glossed over the couple's early years.

From the get-go, Jane Hawking had misgivings about the film adaptation and "the compromises that one has to make for the film industry," as she told The Guardian in 2015. The same year the movie "The Theory of Everything" came out, The Guardian film critic Michelle Dean also lamented that Jane was made a bit player in her own story, and that her character was not better fleshed out in the film. In the movie, Dean wrote, "Jane Hawking quietly and gratefully parted ways with [Stephen] when it became clear their affection for each other was a casualty of the strain," when in fact, their break-up was much more painful than that.

Nonetheless, when her famous ex-husband did die, Jane Hawking told the BBC, "The peace that he has found is well-earned after such an extraordinary and courageous life, but we shall feel his loss keenly for a long time."