Stephen Hawking

© David Gamble

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Stephen 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

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • David Gamble (1953-), Photographer. Artist or producer of 6 portraits.

This portraitback to top

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.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1988back to top

Current affairs

A Pan Am jumbo jet is brought down by a bomb over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 259 passengers and 11 people on the ground. The Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary launched Britain's largest criminal investigation before convicting a Libyan intelligence officer of planting the bomb.

Art and science

Professor Stephen Hawking publishes his popular book on cosmology, A Brief History Of Time.
Damien Hirst and his fellow Goldsmiths students organise the exhibition Freeze in a disused block in the Docklands. The exhibition launched the careers of many of the young British artists (YBAs) associated with Brit Art including Gary Hume, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst, and Anya Gallaccio.


Iraq drops poison gas on the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja, killing thousands of civilians. The city was held at the time by Iranian forces and Iraqi Kurdish rebels, although there was initially some debate over which side was responsible for the atrocity. It was the largest-scale chemical attack on civilians in modern times.

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