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Monday, April 20, 2009

stephen hawking rushed to hospital said to be "very ill"

From CNN's Wire

Stephen Hawking — considered perhaps the world’s greatest living scientist — is “very ill” and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, his university said Monday.

Cambridge University, where he is a professor, said the 67-year-old is “comfortable” and will stay overnight at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

Hawking is a physicist, cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician, and author of numerous books including “A Brief History of Time,” a modern classic exploring the origins of the universe.

Hawking has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” which is usually fatal within a few years. But Hawking was diagnosed in 1963.

The disease has left him paralyzed — he is able to move only a few fingers on one hand. He is completely dependent on others or technology for virtually everything — bathing, dressing, eating, even speech. He uses a speech synthesizer with an American accent.

ALS is “a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord,” according to the ALS Association. “Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord… to the muscles throughout the body.” So when motor neurons die, the brain can no longer control muscle movement.

On his Web site, Hawking has written about living with ALS. “I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many,” he wrote.

He added, “I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.”

Sharon Matland, vice president of patient services for the ALS Association, told CNN Monday, “He is living an amazing life.” She said up to 30,000 Ameicans have ALS, and about 350,000 people worldwide.