Remembering Stephen Hawking

When Stephen Hawking and I first met through our families’ common interest in autism, I respectfully addressed him as Professor Hawking. To be immediately (or as immediately as his then technology would allow) corrected: “Call me Stephen”. I soon learnt to be patient in awaiting his side of the conversation. It was always worthwhile.

At that time, he already had his manually operated adenoidal computer voice; and was able – clumsily – to shake hands and sign his name. His signature degenerated as his disease slowly progressed until there was just his fingerprint which – most appropriately – became the logo of the Stephen Hawking Foundation.

Stephen was an iconic role model for disability and set a world record in surviving with ALS (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player); with his wicked sense of humour and the twinkle in his eyes he confounded all the negative stereotypes of disability. No one could have better represented people with disabilities.

Stephen was an iconic role model for disability and set a world record in surviving with ALS (otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player); with his wicked sense of humour and the twinkle in his eyes he confounded all the negative stereotypes of disability. No one could have better represented people with disabilities.

He used his profile to advocate equal rights for people with disabilities; signed the Charter for the Third Millennium on Disability and starred in the opening of the 2012 Summer Paralympics. As he said then “… we share the same human spirit. What is important is that we have the ability to create… However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at…”

Stephen met and corresponded with a number of disabled people and was active in several charities: Founder Patron of Sky Badger (for disabled children and their families); Patron of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (whose website crashed when Stephen died, the interest was so huge); and, inevitably, the Stephen Hawking Foundation.

He was amazingly philosophical; and a legendary example of not giving up but rather having pride and hope – a brilliant scientist who also happened to be disabled. He was without doubt the most prominent disabled person in the world. Happily, he also found fulfilment, enjoyed a variety of friends and was very much alive right to the end.

One day I asked Stephen how he thought his life would have been, had he not been disabled. After the usual long pause he replied that were it not for the compromises of politics, he could have become Prime Minister! And for once I don’t think he was joking.

Dame Stephanie Shirley

Dame Stephanie Shirley

Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley CH is a philanthropist. She arrived in Britain as a five-year-old on the Kinderstransport in 1939. In 1962, she founded a software company, F. I. Group PLC. Early in her career she found it advantageous to go by the name “Steve” in a male-dominated business world and she employed only women until the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to do so.
She retired in 1993 to concentrate on philanthropic work, since then she has given away at least £68 million of the estimated £150 million wealth she built after selling her IT firm. She continues to give to a range of causes including autism research.
Dame Stephanie Shirley

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Sharwan
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Sharwan

Thank you for your remarks. I would like to take this opportunity to say that stephen committed the biggest mistake of his life by spending 100 million dollars on the insignificant aliens search project, instead of spending that money on researches either upon his own motor degeneration diseases from which so many persons suffer not only in uk but also around the world and or upon other types of such handicaps, his own grandson suffers from such as autism. I am sure he and others could have been benefitted a lot by such researches. These people are not interested in… Read more »