David Lindley, 30 January 1992
Stephen Hawking is now 50 years old, and has lived 25 years longer than he once expected to live. As a scientist he long ago earned the respect of his colleagues; more recently, with the astonishing success of his book A Brief History Time, he has become a widely recognised public figure. Immobile for decades, he is now unable to communicate except by means of an electronic voice-synthesiser connected to a word-processor. He suffers from what is variously known as motor neurone disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, but despite his confinement has moved into the vanguard of theoretical physics. He is one of a handful of people whose work may form the foundation of a ‘theory of everything’, a description of nature so fundamental yet so all-encompassing that it would be able to account for all the phenomena of the natural world.