Usenet Newsgroups are currently abuzz with the news that mathematician/cosmologist/theoretician Stephen Hawking who filled Sir Isaac Newton’s shoes at Cambridge University for several years is seriously ill in Cambridge. He has been fighting a chest infection for several weeks and is now undergoing tests at Addenbrooke’s Hospital on the outskirts of Cambridge.
Wheelchair-bound Hawking is perhaps most famous for ‘A Brief History of Time‘ which explored the origins of the universe in layman’s terms, is considered a modern classic. It was followed in 2001 by another book, “The Universe In A Nutshell“, television documentary appearances and even cameos in popular television shows like “The Simpsons” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Professor Hawking was awarded a CBE in 1982, became a Companion of Honour in 1989 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Hawking has Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS), which is usually fatal after three years. Hawking has survived for more than 40 years since his diagnosis. Hawking, 67, has achieved international fame despite being wheelchair-bound because of motor neurone disease and having to communicate through a voice synthesiser. He has received a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) as well as a string of honorary degrees.
His distinctive appearance and artificial speech have made him instantly recognisable world-wide, and he has never shirked the media spotlight.
Hawking has always insisted he is determined not to let his physical condition get in the way of his work. He has worked at Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics for more than 30 years and since 1979 has been the University’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.