Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of His Life

Jose Orlando Obregon, Contributing Writer

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Stephen Hawking was an acclaimed English theoretical physicist and cosmologist that lived with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) for most of his life. ALS is a disease in which the nerves break down progressively, making people lose all control of their muscles over a couple of years. People with this disease are unable to eat or breathe and they often suffocate to death. Thankfully this disease does not affect the brain.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at age 21 when he was studying at Cambridge University and was told he only had a few years left to live. After receiving this diagnosis, Hawking fell in depression and decided to stop studying. At age 23, he decided to go back to school and married Janet Wilde, a fellow student, whom which he had three children.

Hawking gradually started losing muscle functionality and was dependent on others for almost everything. By his forties, he had lost almost all muscle functionality except for a few muscles on one hand. At age 43 Hawking nearly died from pneumonia. In order to save his life, doctors had to make a hole in his windpipe that prevented him from speaking. He was unable to speak for the rest of his life, and was able to communicate only through a computerized speech system that he controlled with his remaining muscles on his hand, and eventually just with a muscle on his cheek.

Stephen Hawking passed on March 14, 2018 at age 76: 55 years after his initial diagnosis.