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Stephen Hawking: A Legacy of Hope

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It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I have not done badly. People will not have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” Stephen Hawking

You must have heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge, where people challenge each other to get a bucket, fill it with cold water and splash it over themselves. Other than the good laughs, the Ice Bucket Challenge’s main purpose was to raise awareness for a severe disease that no one knows much about, which is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, leads to the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, which eventually causes the loss of signals between the muscles and the brain. When the muscles fail to receive signals and nourishment, they die. So, paralysis becomes the unescapable consequence of ALS.

A disease as grave as ALS could have broken any spirit; however, some people’s strength and determination are stronger than any disease. Stephen Hawking is one of those towering figures whose spirit was not plagued by the ugliness of disease. At an early age, he was diagnosed with ALS; it left him wheel-chair-bound and unable to speak except through a “speech-generating device.” Despite his physical limitation, Hawking’s world has no limits. He confesses that being told that having ALS meant he does not have much time to live motivated him.

Rather than becoming a burden, Hawking decided to educate humanity. He is a theoretical physicist who contributed to fields like cosmology, general relativity, and quantum gravity. Hawking is famous for a book entitled A Brief History of Time; the book is written in a way that makes it intelligible for everyone. In that book, he tries to explain where the universe came from; he also discusses difficult topics like black holes, gravity, and the nature of time.

There are many theoretical physicists out there but there are not many people like Stephen Hawking. Because he is such an inspirational figure, a movie, The Theory of Everything, was recently released about him and his wife.

His legacy is not limited to his contributions to theoretical physics; Hawking inspired people, teaching them what cannot be found in text books: perseverance and determination. His physical limitation did not stop him from working and dreaming. In 2007, he was freed from his wheel chair and given the opportunity at Kennedy’s Space Center to experience an atmosphere without gravity. Hawking is still alive* and he wishes to make it into space one day.

*Update: In 14 March 2018, Prof. Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76.

References

www.hawking.org.uk
www.alsa.org
www.biography.com
www.amazon.com
www.sciencekids.co.nz
www.physicsoftheuniverse.com
www.imdb.com

*Published in SCIplanetSpring 2015 Issue.

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