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Stephen William Hawking

5 of 10 portraits of Stephen William Hawking

Stephen William Hawking

by David Gamble
colour print, 1988
14 in. x 11 1/8 in. (356 mm x 283 mm) uneven
Purchased, 1995
Primary Collection
NPG P632

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Stephen Hawking's illness is the most severe case of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ever documented. Symptoms of the disorder first appeared when Hawking lost his balance and fell down a flight of stairs whilst enrolled at Cambridge University. Hawking was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease at the age of 21. Hawking gradually lost the use of his arms, legs and voice and was almost completely paralysed by 2009.

In this photograph the back of Stephen Hawking's electric voice synthesizer can clearly be seen. The voice synthesizer was invented by one of his peers at Cambridge University to allow him to communicate. At first he would use his hands to point to letters on the screen to form words, later as the disease progressed and this was no longer possible Hawking started to use his cheek and a predictive text setup. In his many media appearances, Hawking is able to speak fluently through his synthesizer but composing sentences are infact a tedious drawn-out process. Despite his disability Hawking considers himself lucky to have had time to have made influential discoveries and have a family.

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