Hi 5 – 14 January 2016 by Mr Tan Shun Loong
Good morning Mdm Tan, Mr Lee, teachers and all Gessians.
Last Friday, The Independent, a UK newspaper, published an article commemorating Stephen Hawking’s 74th birthday. Born on 08 January 1942, Stephen Hawking is known for his work regarding black holes and for his popular science books, such as A Brief History of Time. His life is narrated in a film that was screened in 2014, called “The Theory of Everything”.
Most people who see photos of Stephen Hawking will know that he is wheelchair bound. Stephen Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A simple description for ALS is the shutting down of the muscles, leading to paralysis and eventually death. Hawking first noticed problems with his health when he was an undergraduate: he would trip, fall or suffer from slurred speech, occasionally. When he was pursuing graduate study, at age 21, Hawking’s father noticed his condition and took him to see a doctor. After 2 weeks of tests, the doctors informed them that Stephen Hawking was in the early stages of ALS, and he had only two and a half years to live, i.e. he would not live past 24.
Hawking did not accept the fate as told to him by the doctors. Instead, he chose to persevere in his daily life and his studies. Before the diagnosis, Hawking hadn’t always focused on his studies. When he realized that he might not even live long enough to earn his PhD, Hawking poured himself into his research on black holes and the universe. To address the paralysis of his hands, he started to solve equations by thinking in geometrical terms.
Hawking is now widely recognized for his research in astrophysics and in writing easy-to-understand science books for the public. In 2002, following a UK-wide vote, the BBC included him in their list of the 100 Greatest Britons. In 2009, Hawking was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is America’s highest civilian honour.
Hawking’s control of his body diminished with time: he was forced to use a wheelchair by the time he reached 27 years old. However, the effects of his disease had slowed down and he managed to live past what the doctors had predicted. Since the 1990s, Hawking has accepted the mantle of role model for disabled people, lecturing and participating in fundraising activities. He also said the following:
It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.
Gessians, I would like you to ponder over the following questions:
- When you encounter challenges, do you blame yourself, others or your circumstances?
- Or do you “get on with life” and persevere to overcome these challenges?
Not all of us can be famous, like Stephen Hawking. But all of us can overcome the challenges we encounter and emerge stronger and be an inspiration to others. As we look forward to the end of Term 1 Week 2, I hope you will confront your challenges and your fears, with wisdom and with perseverance. Onward!
Griffin, A. (2016, January 08). Stephen Hawking’s birthday. Retrieved from The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/stephen-hawking-birthday-the-pioneering-astrophysicists-most-terrifying-quotes-a6802261.html