Isobel held several jobs after graduation from Oxford, all of them beneath her ability and credentials as a university graduate. One was as an inspector of taxes. She so loathed that work that she gave it up in disgust to become a secretary at a medical institute in Hampstead. There she met Frank Hawking. They were married in the early years of the war.
In January 1942 the Hawkings were living in Highgate, North London. In the London area hardly a night passed without air raids, and Frank and Isobel Hawking decided Isobel should go to Oxford to give birth to their baby in safety. Germany was not bombing Oxford or Cambridge, the two great English university towns, reputedly in return for a British promise not to bomb Heidelberg and Göttingen. In Oxford, the city familiar from her recent university days, Isobel spent the final week of her pregnancy first in a hotel and then, as the birth grew imminent and the hotel grew nervous, in the hospital, but she was still able to go out for walks to fill her time. On one of those leisurely winter days, she happened into a bookshop and, with a book token, bought an astronomical atlas. She would later regard this as a rather prophetic purchase.
Reprinted from Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind, by Kitty Ferguson, by arrangement with Palgrave Macmillan. Copyright © 2012, by Kitty Ferguson.