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I am a Capricorn with science geek rising. So when I watched the movie “The Theory of Everything,” I became a teensy-bit obsessed with Stephen Hawking. Then I picked up (can you say you picked up a book if you really just ordered it on your iPad from the Kindle store?) and read his autobiography, My Brief History. It was one of those books short enough to read in a few hours, if you don’t spend too much time pondering his explanations of how he has figured out the beginning and end of the universe. I was curious to learn a little more about his voice. Because his electronic voice isn’t really his own and cannot emote like ours can, for example getting louder, faster or higher when excited, the best way to understand his voice is to read his autobiography. What makes him desirable enough to have marriages with two lovely women, one of which he attracted when he was severely debilitated, and father three children? I think most of these qualities were also apparent in the movie, but it was interesting to read his own words, which I’ve quoted here from the book.

1 Focus. His intense ability to focus is demonstrated by the fact that he has written seven books and a number of scientific papers at the speed of three words a minute. He writes via a gizmo on his glasses picking up microscopic movements of his cheek. So when he turns that attention to his family, I’m sure they feel it intensely.

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

From http://whoisstephenhawking.com/

2 Fun loving – He has fun with life. He is clearly fond of making bets – and enjoyed the fact that he was the subject of them. For example, “When I was twelve, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never amount to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled, and if so, which way it was decided.” In the 70s he bet scientist Kip Thorne that a certain star did not contain a black hole. In a way he bet against himself, because he had “made a big intellectual investment in black holes.” But he was clever, because he said if he won, he’d get the consolation of a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine (which is an English magazine with a humorous take on the news). But if he lost, he could give a subscription of Penthouse to his friend Kip. (Kip eventually won, “much to the displeasure of his wife.”) To see Hawking and his family having fun, watch this video of his family taking the ALS ice bucket challenge for him.

3. Doesn’t pity himself—When he was in college at Cambridge, he was in the hospital for two weeks just before his twenty-first birthday, and doctors did a series of medical tests on him to determine what was wrong. But the anecdote he told of these days reveal one way he has kept his own spirits up:  “The realization that I had an incurable disease that was likely to kill me in a few years was a bit of a shock. How could something like this happen to me? However, while I was in the hospital, I had seen a boy I vaguely knew die of leukemia in the bed opposite me, and it had not been a pretty sight. Clearly there were people who were worse off than me—at least my condition didn’t make me feel sick. Whenever I feel inclined to be sorry for myself, I remember that boy.”

Hawking is really quite a guy. Did his positive outlook and focus help him find love and outlive his prognosis by 50 years? I’d guess it did.

Visit the ALS Association to donate or read more about how you can make an ice bucket challenge.  This blog is in memory of my college roommate Sarah Phillips, who died of ALS while Bob and I were living in Cambridge, England in the early 80s, just miles away from Stephen Hawking.

One Response to “The Timeless Appeal of Stephen Hawking”

  1. Jen C. says:

    It’s a shame you changed the title of the blog, I think “The Sex Appeal of Stephen Hawking” was much more honest, lets face it, he’s pretty damn hot.

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