Professor Hawking passed peacefully at his home sometime early this morning at the age of 76. I remember the first time I heard about him, I started reading and researching just a little bit more into the man who had become quite the legend not only in the scientific world, but in the geek world as well. For people who love to watch The Big Bang Theory, you know what I am talking about. >> Sheldon meets Hawking <<
I watched that episode and then wanted to learn more about Stephen and how he used his sense of humor to get through life. It was actually quite amazing. He was diagnosed at age 21 when his body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and he was told that he would not live long. I love a good fight story though, and he out surpassed the grim expectations by more than 50 years.
I remember reading that he later survived a horrible bout of pneumonia in 1985, and that left him breathing through a tube. Last year, at almost exactly this time, he was said to be looking for a new voice. Again, it was his way of bringing humor to the condition that left him communicating through an electronic voice synthesizer. Take a look at this funny clip.
But this…this quote. Said volumes to me because after being diagnosed with a rare disease myself at the age of 23, and then going on to be diagnosed with a few more, I thought about the man who lived inside of the iconic figure.
If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well. In my opinion, one should concentrate on activities in which one’s physical disability will not present a serious handicap. I am afraid that Olympic Games for the disabled do not appeal to me, but it is easy for me to say that because I never liked athletics anyway. On the other hand, science is a very good area for disabled people because it goes on mainly in the mind. Of course, most kinds of experimental work are probably ruled out for most such people, but theoretical work is almost ideal. My disabilities have not been a significant handicap in my field, which is theoretical physics. Indeed, they have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in. I have managed, however, only because of the large amount of help I have received from my wife, children, colleagues and students. I find that people in general are very ready to help, but you should encourage them to feel that their efforts to aid you are worthwhile by doing as well as you possibly can.
Stephen, I am writing this to you like we knew one another, but this quote is very appreciated. “It is no good blaming the world…” indeed. It isn’t. Rest well.