Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another View of the Universe of Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a very rare condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), when he was young. From Wikipedia:
Hawking's illness is markedly different from typical ALS in that his form of ALS would make for the most protracted case ever documented. A survival for more than ten years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS; the longest documented durations are thirty-two and thirty-nine years and these cases were termed benign because of the lack of the typical progressive course.

When he was young, he enjoyed riding horses and playing with other children. At Oxford, he coxed a rowing team, which, he stated, helped relieve his immense boredom at the university. Symptoms of the disorder first appeared while he was enrolled at University of Cambridge; he lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting his head. Worried that he would lose his genius, he took the Mensa test to verify that his intellectual abilities were intact. The diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21, shortly before his first marriage, and doctors said he would not survive more than two or three years. Hawking gradually lost the use of his arms, legs, and voice, and as of 2009 has been almost completely paralysed.

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He describes himself as lucky despite his disease. Its slow progression has allowed him time to make influential discoveries and has not hindered him from having, in his own words, "a very attractive family." When his wife, Jane, was asked why she decided to marry a man with a three-year life expectancy, she responded, "Those were the days of atomic gloom and doom, so we all had a rather short life expectancy."