One of the Greatest Minds in the World, Stephen Hawking has Died at 76

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Mar 14, 2018
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Quick Bites

  • Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76
  • In 1963 at the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND)
  • MND is a neurodegenerative disease in which these neurons fail to perform their function

The world has lost one of the greatest minds in science today. Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. His family confirmed that he died a peaceful death at his own home in Cambridge, England.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world,” said Hawking’s children, Lucy, Tim and Robert.

In 1963 at the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The disease left him paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. He could move only fingers and did all his daily work virtually. He was completely dependent on technology or people around him.

Read: Who is at risk of Motor Neuron Diseases?

After the diagnosis, he was expected to survive for only two years. But he was able to survive for more than half a century as he had a form of the disease that progressed slowly, allowing his disability to define his popularity.

However, his genius is extraordinary and he was one of the greatest voices in science because of his contribution to the understanding of the universe. He made numerous discoveries, however, he considered his discovery that black holes are not entirely black his greatest achievement.

Nerve cells control the muscles enabling us to breathe, speak, move and swallow. Motor neurone disease (MND) is a neurodegenerative disease in which these neurons fail to perform their function. This leads to a gradual weakening of the muscles, as neurons degenerate.

MND can affect your ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. Some people may experience a change in their behaviour and thinking. Only 1 in 3000 is at risk of getting the disease. It can affect adults of any age but people over 50 are more at risk of the disease.

Symptoms of this disease vary from individual to individual:

Early Symptoms:

  • Problem holding objects due to weakness in the hand muscles
  • Stumbling or falling caused by weakness in the leg muscles
  • Difficulty in swallowing or the slurring of speech
  • Twitching muscles and cramps

Symptoms as the disease progresses:

  • Lethargy due to weight loss, decreased food intake, reduced lung capacity, metabolic abnormality, and muscle exhaustion
  • Problem breathing due to reduced lung capacity due to muscle weakness
  • Insomnia and behavioural changes
  • Slight changes in cognitive ability
  • Excess emotion (laughing and crying) due to damage to the upper motor neurons
  • Pain and discomfort

Causes

No significant cause has been found yet for motor neurone disease. Researchers believe that possible environmental issues and genetic factors need to combine to trigger MND. However, scientists are working on finding the causes of the disease.

Read more articles on Motor Neuron Disease

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