Despite being diagnosed at the age of 21 with the debilitating motor neuron disease, which has left him almost entirely paralysed and able to communicate only through a speech generating device, the world-renowned English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking said recently that his disability may even have been an asset throughout his illustrious career.
“My disability has not been a serious handicap in my scientific work. In fact, in some ways I guess it has been an asset: I haven’t had to lecture or teach undergraduates, and I haven’t had to sit on tedious committees. So I have been able to devote myself completely to research.”
Over the past half century since contracting MND, the 71 year-old has held the post of Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University, and been recognised for his immeasurable contributions in the field of cosmology. Professor Hawking’s numerous achievements include being the first person to unite genera relativity and quantum mechanics to set forth a cosmology of the Universe, proving the existence of singularities (black holes), and discovering black holes emit thermal radiation (Hawking radiation).
Stephen Hawking’s accomplishments are all the more remarkable considering sufferers from his crippling disease normally lose their battle against the condition after only 10 years. As well as defying all the odds, the author of the best-selling book ‘A Brief History of Time’ says he is not afraid of dying, and that his disability may even have inspired him on to greater heights.
“Every day could be my last and, though I’m 71 now, I go to work every day. I have a desire to make the most of every minute,” explained Professor Hawking.