Professor Stephen Hawking will deliver the BBC's flagship Reith Lecture this year - on the subject of black holes.
The renowned physicist, 73, follows in the footsteps of artist Grayson Perry and Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in delivering the Radio 4 lecture.
Listeners will be able to suggest questions in advance for Professor Hawking, whose life was recently dramatised in an Oscar-winning film, to answer.
He said: "I'm delighted to be the BBC's Reith lecturer and to be able to convey the thrill of science to millions of listeners around the world through my lecture.
"I want to encourage people to imagine and explore the possibilities of science. Both the known, and the as yet unknown."
He added: "My talk is on black holes.... a region where gravity is so strong, that nothing, not even light, can escape. I will describe the remarkable properties of black holes, including the fact that very small black holes aren't black at all, but glow like hot bodies.
"We should never stop trying to tell these extraordinary stories from science, and I hope my Reith Lecture will enthuse a new generation to develop ideas that will have an impact on our understanding of the world and never to be overwhelmed by the task of discovery."
The Reith Lecture comes as Radio 4 plans to mark the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity with special programming this autumn.
The Lectures, named after the BBC's first director general John Reith, were set up in 1948 to ''advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest''.