Stephen Hawking Speaks to the New York Times

by jdroth on 9 May 2011

In 1963, when he was 21, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). At the time, he’d just begun studying theoretical astronomy and cosmology at Cambridge.

Though ALS usually kills its victims within just a few years (you may recall that Lou Gehrig himself only lived two years after being diagnosed), Hawking has lived to the ripe old age of 69. Over the past 48 years, he’s contributed important work to the study of the universe — and he’s served as an inspiration to other people suffering from debilitating diseases.

Earlier today, The New York Times published a rare interview with Stephen Hawking. Here’s an excerpt:

Q. I don’t mean to ask this disrespectfully, but there are some experts on A.L.S. who insist that you can’t possibly suffer from the condition. They say you’ve done far too well, in their opinion. How do you respond to this kind of speculation?

A. Maybe I don’t have the most common kind of motor neuron disease, which usually kills in two or three years. It has certainly helped that I have had a job and that I have been looked after so well.

I don’t have much positive to say about motor neuron disease. But it taught me not to pity myself, because others were worse off and to get on with what I still could do. I’m happier now than before I developed the condition. I am lucky to be working in theoretical physics, one of the few areas in which disability is not a serious handicap.

Q. Given all you’ve experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?

A. 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.

At the New York Times site, you can read the entire interview, play audio recordings of Hawking’s responses, and read reader comments.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Greg May 9, 2011 at 23:26

Stephen Hawking gave a TED talk “Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe”. His response to a question took 7 minutes for him to prepare using his voice synthesizer. What patience! I imagine he chooses his words very carefully because communication is so time consuming. Furthermore, Stephen Hawking has probably developed a higher capacity for working with large amounts of information in his head – most scientists have the luxury of filling notebooks with scratch work more easily than him. His disability has granted him unique characteristics – mentally and in the public eye.


2 Greg May 9, 2011 at 23:27

Opps, I intended to link to his TED talk:
“Stephen Hawking asks big questions about the universe”


3 Moneycone May 10, 2011 at 04:54

He is truly an inspiration. Despite his severe disability, he capitalized on his keen intellect – he is so right – don’t be disabled in spirit.


4 Celia May 10, 2011 at 15:04

I have always been so inspired by Hawking’s work and his attitude. My father passed from ALS six years ago after suffering for 18 months. I have the utmost respect for anyone dealing with the disease, whether they live a year or 30. The patience and endurance Mr. Hawking must have is incredible.


5 Ritz May 12, 2011 at 02:20

Stephen Hawkins sir is great. He is my inspiration as I also want to do research after engineering in the feild of astronomy. May he live thousand of years. My best wishes are always with him!


6 Lis May 21, 2011 at 23:01

Stephen Hawking is definitely an awesome person!


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