People in the News: Stephen Hawking | Level 8 | By Little Fox

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[Series Introduction]

Young newscasters Ben and Olivia introduce well-known people from around the world. These “people in the news” have accomplished extraordinary things in science, sports, music, business, politics, and more!


BEN: Hi, Little Fox readers, and welcome back to People in the News. Today we'll be meeting one of the world's most brilliant scientists, Professor Stephen Hawking.

OLIVIA: Hello, everyone! Stephen was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, to a highly educated family. His father was a doctor, and his mother was one of the first women to attend Oxford University, a very prestigious school.
Despite being a smart kid, Stephen didn't learn to read until he was eight, and he got terrible grades in school. He was more interested in creating intricate board games with his friends, and when he was 16, he and his friends built a computer out of spare parts. That was in 1958, before personal computers even existed!
Stephen's father hoped he would become a doctor, but Stephen was more interested in science. He was particularly fascinated by the night sky. He and his family would lie outside on clear nights to gaze up at the stars. The stars filled Stephen with a sense of wonder about the universe.
Even though his grades were not the best, people recognized Stephen's talents, and he was admitted to Oxford University at the age of 17. After Oxford, Stephen went to Cambridge University to study cosmology, the branch of science that deals with the whole universe. His goal was to understand everything about how the universe works. When Stephen was a student at Oxford, he'd noticed some disturbing physical changes. He had become a bit clumsy, and he started to slur his speech. These symptoms got worse during his first year at Cambridge, and his parents convinced him to see a doctor. After three weeks of tests, doctors told Stephen he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It's a fatal disease that destroys the nerves that control muscle function. It gets progressively worse, and there's no cure. Stephen was told he'd only live another two and a half years.

BEN: Wow . . . How did he handle that terrible news?

OLIVIA: At first Stephen was devastated, and he grew very depressed. But then he decided to make the most of the time he had left, and he devoted himself to his research. He soon realized that he actually liked studying, and he was able to develop some very important theories that made him famous in the scientific community.
Stephen managed to outlive his doctors' prediction about his life expectancy, but as his fame grew, his body deteriorated, and he was eventually confined to a wheelchair. Then in 1985 Stephen lost his voice after an emergency tracheotomy. He couldn't use his hands to type, so his only way to "talk" was to have people show him words. When he saw the word he wanted to use, he'd raise his eyebrows. Communicating like that was very difficult and time-consuming. What made it even worse was that he was in the middle of writing a book. Fortunately a computer programmer heard about his situation and sent him a program that could speak for him. Stephen could select words from a computer screen, and then the computer would say what Stephen had written. The voice sounded robotic, and it had an American accent, but Stephen had a voice again. It also enabled him to finish his book, A Brief History of Time, which was published in 1985.
Stephen hoped the book would make complicated theories about cosmology understandable to people who were not scientists. He also . . .

[Little Fox Introduction]

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