What hardships did Stephen Hawking face? 

What hardships did Stephen Hawking face?


Expert Answers
mr-mayonnaise eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Hawking is widely accepted as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists of all time. His early work gave us our best understanding of the make-up of black holes; by defining the heat loss from the edges of black holes—dubbed Hawking Radiation—and shows how black holes degrade over time. 

One of the difficulties Hawking had to overcome was his own brilliance and the laxness that came with being an undergraduate who feels he or she already knows everything. As an undergraduate, Hawking did not have to study or work very hard to understand concepts, causing him to be bored much of the time. He was also younger than many of his classmates, as he began his undergraduate program at 17. He combated this by joining the school rowing team as their coxswain, which gave him an opportunity to be 'one of the boys'.

The biggest challenge Hawking has dealt with is his degenerative nerve disorder ALS. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is where the neurons that control motor functions, or movement, break down and the sufferer loses all motor abilities. It has no cure and those diagnosed usually have short life spans after contracting the disease. When Hawking was diagnosed, he was given two years to live and fell into a depression. He felt there was little reason to continue his work and fell behind in his research. Thanks to coaxing from his advisers at Cambridge, Hawking continued his work, received his Doctorate degree, and went on to become a Fellow at the university. 

Stephen Hawking continues to thrive to this day, far outliving his original prognosis. He continues to give lectures, write books such as A Brief History of Time, and further the work in his field. Hawking's most recent work has been to pioneer a search for extraterrestrial life in a program called Breakthrough Initiatives. Stephen Hawking is a wonderful example that no matter what hand you may have been dealt, the human ability to overcome obstacles should never be disregarded and great feats and works can still be accomplished no matter the circumstance.