He is one of the most famous physicists and exponents of science throughout the entire world. And this is regardless of the fact that he unable to speak for 30 years and wheelchair-bound for half a century due to disease, from which he was predicted to die in the mid-1960s.
One-of-a-kind, mysterious and ingenious Stephen Hawking.
Theoretical physicist Stephen William Hawking was born on January 08, 1942 in Oxford, England. Having received his brilliant education, from the very beginning of his career trajectory he started to pose “big” questions – he studied the emergence of the Universe, black holes, and other issues related to the very roots of world creation.
In 1963 young scientist was diagnosed to have extremely dangerous disease – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It fell to Hawking to cope with challenging task: doctors said that he will pass away at the earliest date, will lose his ability move, consume food by himself and even breathe…
– The doctor who diagnosed me with ALS, or motor neuron disease, told me that it would kill me in two or three years.
Despite the terrible forecast of doctors, young Stephen kept up doing his scientific work.
Much to the astonishment of doctors, when with the lapse of years it has become clear that his state of health become stable, and disease was progressing very slowly. Thus, Stephen Hawking, not yet famous as a physicist, has become a unique person – world’s first patient having express diagnosis of ALS, whose disease has “stopped”. And now, 52 years later, having lost almost all the motor functions, he, nevertheless, is alive and keeps on making people stare at his discoveries.
This is what Hawking says about his disease:
– I don’t have much positive to say about motor neurone disease. But it taught me not to pity myself because others were worse off, and to get on with what I could still do.
It is hard to imagine what the person, who was told that just few days left till his death, may feel. But when Stephen Hawking realized that he is death sick, he found his zest for life:
– When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.
From year to year he published more and more scientific works, made discoveries, wrote popular books that explain in lay terms the most complex areas of physics. He participated in seminars and lectures, was the “ambassador of science” in the human realm – he lived his life to the fullest, as much as he could.
But in 1985, during his visit to European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland he contracted pneumonia. In the hospital he was connected to medical ventilator that supported the life of scientist… Considering the seriousness of illness, doctors offered the physicist’s wife to disconnect Hawking from life-supporting appliances. Upon adamant refusal of Hawking’s spouse, scientist was transported to Cambridge. Here, in local hospital, he was operated, which made him be able to breathe again by himself, but he irrevocably lost his ability to speak.
Now, for many consecutive years, physicist communicates using the speech synthesizer. A great many scientific institutions and innovative companies offered him to improve his apparatus and to make his speech more “human-like”. But the scientist rejects these proposals for the reason as follows:
– The voice I use is a very old hardware speech synthesizer made in 1986. I keep it because I have not heard a voice I like better and because I have identified with it.
Chained to a wheelchair and having no possibility to speak, Stephen Hawking is holding his own and sees many bright moments in his life.
– I have a full and satisfying life. My work and my family are very important to me.
– However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
– Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.
Thus, limitations in movement, limitations in communication and total dependence on the aid of medical staff made him lose himself in his work – into pure theoretical physics, in which the only thing the person needs is the acuity of mind. Stephen Hawking’s phenomenal achievements have proved that fantasy, keen interest in the world, and human intelligence see no bounds, even if they are caged in weak and sick body. Scientist gives conservative comments on his brilliant discoveries and theories:
– I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these “how” and “why” questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.
While making researches, physicist started to ask himself questions “how?” and “why?” as to the very essence of the Universe.
– Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of religion.
Stephen Hawking is not only very clever, but sharp-witted as well.
He promotes science in every possible way, trying to get out the message: the Universe is the object of study of physics, rather than something supernatural. We just have the laws that are not yet discovered or realized. But this is not to say that we cannot come to know them – we, humanity, just need some time.
– I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
Stephen Hawking is not excited at all to have such limitations, occurred as a result of disease. But, such an extremely gifted person with the mind of philosophic cast finds positive moments in them.
– I can’t say that my disability has helped my work, but it has allowed me to concentrate on research without having to lecture or sit on boring committees.
Despite his full engagement in physics, all his cleverness and phenomenal intuition, sometimes Stephen Hawking, like anyone of us, is faced with work problems. However, life has taught him not to be afraid of the most stern test of the fate. Scientist always seek ways not to give up in despair. This is his recipe for overcoming the most difficult obstacles on the way towards cognition:
– It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years.
– People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.
Indeed, Stephen Hawking understands that over the half a century he is at death’s door. This would cast anyone down. but not the person of such force of will, like this laureate of many prizes, who, despite his serious illness, managed to achieve worldwide recognition and glory during his lifetime. He takes a philosophical approach to the death.
– I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.
– There are plenty of dead scientists I admire, but I can’t think of any living ones. This is probably because it is only in retrospect that one can see who made the important contributions.
Not every person having perfect health and great many talents could boast of such zest for life, community commitment, which could lead to worldwide fame, popularity among the scientists, and admirers of the literature, innovators, motivational lecturers, mentors, etc. His wisdom is simple: disability is not a physical state, but the state of the soul. Even the person with limited capacities may life his productive life and may become an example for imitation.
– 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.
And if someone believes that only the one, who had serious tests all his life long and managed to overcome them, is able to become the living icon, – he is mistaken. According to Stephen Hawking, we all are different, unique, but anyone of us is gifted with a power of the human spirit. Everyone has a pivot pin inside. Even those, whose physical limitations restrict him from doing that, which is available to almost anyone, even to a child – to walk, to talk, to write. This very pivot pin empowers us, in spite of everything, to change the world and allows us to look beyond the perception horizon, make great discoveries, perceive the fundamentals of the Universe that have not yet been revealed to anyone.