Stephen Hawking: His Life, and His Advice to People with Disabilities
Posted on July 13, 2019 by Ann
Everything is a bonus
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.” (Stephen Hawking, 2004)
When Stephen Hawking was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease (MND). It was a terminal disease that causes the death of neurones that control the brain and the spinal cord. The doctors predicted that he had only 2 years left to live.
This diagnosis came when he was at the prime of his life. He had just received a first class honours degree in physics from Oxford and had began his graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He had just met Jane Wilde, a friend of his sister, who would become his future wife.
MND caused Hawking to gradually lost control of his body but he always found ways to overcome his limitations.
When he could no longer walk properly, he used crutches and later a wheelchair.
When he could no longer write, he visualised equations in his head.
When he could no longer speak, he used a speech-generating device.
Hawking exemplified how determination and assistive technology could empower a disabled person and allowed him to become one of the most influential scientists of all time.
Make the most of each and every minute
Because of the doctor’s diagnosis, Hawking sought to give the greatest value to his actions. He said in 2013:
“I have lived five decades longer than doctors predicted. I have tried to make good use of my time. Because every day could be my last, I have the desire to make the most of each and every minute.”
Indeed he had made the most of each and every minute. His groundbreaking works included his prediction that black holes emit radiation (now known as Hawking radiation) and his theory of cosmology that combined general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics. He was the author of numerous publications, including the best-seller, A Brief History of Time. He received numerous awards and honours, including being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).
He also appeared on TV series (such as The Simpsons, Star Trek and All In’s staff favourite The Big Bang Theory). Here’s a clip about his appearance on The Big Bang Theory:
Today, Stephen Hawking is probably the most famous and easily recognised scientist after Albert Einstein. His public appearances had contributed greatly to how people with disabilities are perceived and raised awareness for MND.
Don’t be disabled in spirit
Hawking had said that he wanted to be known as “a scientist first, popular science writer second, and, in all the ways that matter, a normal human being with the same desires, drives, dreams, and ambitions as the next person.”
In 2011, he said:
“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
After living with MND for more than 50 years, Hawking died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76, but he would continue to live on in our memories as the scientist with greatest sense of humour and the most beautiful smile.