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

Many of the most brilliant and influential people in the world are terrible spouses. Unfortunately, this seems to have included the late physicist Stephen Hawking.

According to Slate, Stephen met his future wife Jane at a New Years party in 1963. He was a physics student at Cambridge University, while she studied languages at Westfield College. The two quickly formed a connection, and were married in 1965. But, in 1995 — thirty years and three kids later — Jane and Stephen separated. There were many reasons for the divorce, but the primary one? Stephen had fallen in love with one of his nurses.

Stephen and Jane had a rough relationship from the start, though. The difficulties began when Stephen was diagnosed with ALS in 1963, as explained by NBC News. It was devastating news. The doctors warned Stephen that he might not live for much longer, and if he did, he would be paralyzed throughout most of his body. Despite this, Jane chose to stick by Stephen's side, changing the dynamic of their relationship.

Jane Hawking had to be a caretaker for both Stephen and their children

Staying with Stephen was, of course, a difficult decision. It meant that Jane would be a caretaker to both her husband and the three children that they had in the following years — Robert, Lucy, and Timothy. When describing this difficult period in her life to the Telegraph, Jane said "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."

Jane also felt the pain of increasing estrangement from her husband. "There were four partners in our marriage," Jane told the Guardian. "Stephen and me, motor neuron disease and physics." And, despite her best efforts, Jane was unable to bond with her husband over physics, and her passion remained the study of languages. In 1981, Heavy reports, Jane obtained a PhD in medieval Spanish poetry, happy to carve out an academic identity distinct from her husband's. Following this, Jane also did some university teaching, per 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.

Even more strain was put on the Hawkings' marriage when Stephen's influential book, A Brief History of Time, came out in 1988.

After a messy divorce, Jane Hawking is now a happily-married author

When A Brief History of Time was published, "It drew all sorts of people into our circle and really made our home life intolerable," Jane said to the Telegraph. 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. So, Stephen and Jane separated in 1990. The formal divorce was not until 1995, per Newsweek, and Stephen married Elaine that year.

After the divorce, Jane married a musician named Jonathan in 1997. Per the Guardian, the two had already been growing close towards the end of Jane's difficult marriage to Stephen. Then, in 2006, Stephen divorced his second wife Elaine, at which point he and Jane were able to re-establish their friendship. "I feel a great deal of admiration — and a lot of love for him too," Jane told the Telegraph. In 2007, Jane published Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen Hawking, which was adapted into the critically-acclaimed 2014 film The Theory of Everything. Today, Jane continues her career as an author. Her most recent work of fiction, Cry to Dream Again, came out in 2018.

Stephen Hawking passed away from ALS in 2018. The BBC reports Jane's response: "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."