Stephen Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death. Though he was born to well-educated parents, the time he was born was difficult because his parents did not have money and the Second World War was making livelihoods difficult. In search of a safer place, his family returned to Oxford, Stephen had three siblings and thus the family had scarcity of money.
His early school life was not exceptional; he was third from the bottom in his class, but he enjoyed board games and, like geniuses, he and his friends created their own board games; he also made computers out of waste parts to solve mathematical equations; and he enjoyed climbing, dancing, and rowing.
He loved mathematics, but because Oxford did not have the degree, he had to study Physics and, later, Cosmology.
Whereas he believes he was unable to devote enough time to studies and was not paying attention in school, he was exploring science.
Disability is a state of mind
He was 21 years old when he was diagnosed with ALS. It all started in Oxford when he began to notice that he would trip and fall or slur his speech. He ignored it until 1963, when his father noticed it and took him to the doctor. A battery of tests revealed that the patient had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a condition in which the nerves that control muscles fail. He was told he wouldn’t live for more than two years.
When everyone had given up hope, Stephen had a dream in which he was about to be executed, and he believes that this disease helped him become the scientist he is today, as he says, “Before my condition was diagnosed, I had been very bored with life, there did not seem to be anything worth doing.” With the sudden realisation that he might not even live long enough to complete his PhD, Hawking devoted all of his time and energy to his work and research. In one of his interviews, he also stated, “When I was 21, my expectations were reduced to zero.” Everything that has happened since then has been a bonus.”
It all started with his research on black holes, which led to his first major publication, The Grand Design, in which Hawking set out to challenge Sir Isaac Newton’s belief that the universe had to be designed by God because it couldn’t have come from chaos. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and start the universe,” he said, and he is still in the news for his new theories and work.
We can learn from this
He did not recover from his disease, which caused him to become physically weak over time, but what kept him going was his willingness to work from the mind, as he says, “Although I cannot move and must speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.”
He didn’t close his mind when his body failed, and today, at the age of 73, despite being given very little time, he demonstrated that it’s all about the will to live and the willingness to accept challenges. Death must come, but the life we have between birth and death is entirely up to us, and it is entirely up to us how we want to live. “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m not in a hurry to die,” he says. (According to Stephen Hawking)
When a man who can’t move or talk can perform miracles while also leading a normal family life with children, why do some of us give up and accept failure? Is it appropriate to float down the river of grief when the grave is not the end goal?
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.” (Stephen Hawking)