Stephen Hawking, the retired Lucasian Professor at Cambridge is without doubt the most well known scientist in the world. Much like the image of the white haired Einstein with the mischievous smile came to signify the Atomic Age for most people, Hawking is the public face of high brow science in our times. There have been scientists who have possibly made more significant contributions. There have been scientists who have written better and more popular books. And there have been scientists who grapple with harder problems in science than him. But the celebrity status achieved by Hawking is unmatched. He has become an icon, not only of great intellectual achievement but also of the unconquerable human spirit in the face of adversity.
In 1962, just as he was starting his PhD at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with a rare and incurable motor neuron disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. His doctors gave him a few years to live. And yet, with a combination of a rare determination not to give up, technology and an immensely supportive family, Hawking has not only survived but has almost single handedly revolutionized cosmology.
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