ALS: The Disability
Stephen’s Talking Computer
Stephen Hawking: The Man
Stephen William Hawking was born on In 1962, he left Oxford for Trinity
January 8, 1942 (300 years after the Hall, Cambridge, where he engaged
death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. in the study of theoretical astronomy
At eleven Stephen went to St Albans and cosmology.
School, and then on to University Almost as soon as he arrived at
College, Oxford, his father's old Cambridge, he started developing
college. symptoms of amyotrophic lateral
Stephen wanted to do Mathematics, sclerosis.
although his father would have In 1965, Stephen met Jane Wilde,
preferred medicine. Mathematics was a language student and his first wife.
not available at University College, so They had three children together.
he did Physics instead. After three In 1991, the couple separated
years and not very much work he was (and later divorced) due to the
awarded a first class honors degree in pressures of Stephen’s fame and his
Natural Science. increasing disability.
Stephen Hawking: The Man
After completing his doctorate in 1966 From 1970 Hawking began to apply
Hawking was awarded a fellowship at his previous ideas to the study of black
Gonville and Caius College, holes.
Cambridge. Continuing this work on black holes,
In 1973 he left the Institute of Hawking discovered in 1970 a
Astronomy and joined to the remarkable property. Using quantum
Department of Applied Mathematics theory and general relativity he was
and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. able to show that black holes can emit
He became Professor of Gravitational radiation.
Physics at Cambridge in 1977. In 1979 In 1984, while in Geneva, Stephen
Hawking was appointed Lucasian caught pneumonia and was rushed to
Professor of Mathematics at the hospital. At the hospital, his wife
Cambridge. The man born 300 years was told that it was not worth keeping
to the day after Galileo died now held the life support machine on. However,
Newton’s chair at Cambridge. Jane did not accept that and Stephen
Between 1965 and 1970 Hawking was flown back to Addenbrook
worked on singularities in the theory of Hospital in Cambridge. A tracheotomy
general relativity devising new was performed, that saved his life, but
mathematical techniques to study this he lost his voice forever.
area of cosmology.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a motor neuron disease, first
described in 1869 by the noted French neurologist Jean-Martin
Charcot. Although the cause of ALS is not completely understood,
the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding
about the disease that provides hope for the future.
Most commonly, the disease strikes people between the ages of 40
and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any
Lou Gehrig first brought national and international attention to the
disease in 1939 when he abruptly retired from baseball after being
diagnosed with ALS.
What is ALS?
ALS is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by
the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous
system that control voluntary muscle movement.
The disease belongs to a group of disorders known as motor neuron
diseases, which are characterized by the gradual degeneration and death of
ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Eventually, all
muscles under voluntary control are affected, and patients lose their
strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. When muscles
in the diaphragm and chest wall fail, patients lose the ability to breathe
without ventilatory support. Most people with ALS die from respiratory
failure, usually within 3 to 5 years from the onset of symptoms. However,
about 10 percent of ALS patients survive for 10 or more years.
No cure has yet been found for ALS. However, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug treatment for the
Clinical trials with ALS patients showed that riluzole prolongs survival by
several months, mainly in those with difficulty swallowing. The drug also
extends the time before a patient needs ventilation support.
More significant advances of research into ALS has occurred in the last
decade than all of the time since Charcot identified the disease.
Stephen’s Ferrari: The Quantum Jazzy 1440
Designed for people with high-end rehab needs,
the 1400 offers a wide range of standard rehab
Made by Pride Mobility
This is a power-wheel chair which relies on
electricity to run
The Synergy Seating System
Fully programmable digital controller that
utilizes plug and play technology to interface with
various specialized drive controls
Typical cost is from $1,700 to $7,500
Stephen’s Communication Device
Stephen has always used IBM
compatible computers on his wheel chair
Computer runs on a battery which is
stored under the wheelchair
The screen is mounted on the arm of
the wheelchair for visibility
Runs on a program called Equalizer,
designed by Words Plus, Inc. and uses a
switch to move the cursor
Stephen uses a speech Synthesizer to
He is able to input his equations in
words and the computer translates them
As the disease has worsened, Stephen
relies on an eye-movement device
(attached to his glasses to detect
motion), to control his computer