World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has voiced his fears for future students with disabilities trying to find success in the realm of science. While many aspects of science and education have improved over the last few decades, Stephen Hawking claims that today’s disabled youth will actually have fewer opportunities than he did when trying to start a career.
According to the Independent, Stephen Hawking recently spoke at a dinner celebrating his 50th year as a fellow of Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge. Hawking took the opportunity to thank the college and the financial support he was granted to work on theories that revolutionized the world of physics. But he also revealed sincere concerns for new students who have serious medical conditions who may not be blessed with the same backing he received.
“I wonder whether a young ambitious academic, with my kind of severe condition now, would find the same generosity and support in much of higher education,” said Stephen Hawking. “Even with the best goodwill, would the money still be there? I fear not.”
Funding for scientific research has always been one of the biggest hurdles for scientists to overcome, with many fields of science suffering from major cuts in recent years, including the American space agency, NASA. It’s already difficult enough for young, hopeful scientists to find financial support, but Stephen Hawking claims it will be even worse for those with medical issues.
However, the master of the college, Alan Fersht, reassured Stephen Hawking that his institution, at least, would be more than willing to support talented disabled students.
“Stephen questioned whether a young academic in his condition would get the same level of support today? For Caius at least, I can say emphatically ‘yes’. The fellowship is a family, just as our students, our staff and our alumni are all parts of the Caian family.”
Stephen Hawking has been living with a severe motor neuron disease for most of his life, having been diagnosed in his early 20s. The doctors told Hawking he wouldn’t live for more than a few years, but the scientist is still kicking at age 73. Even though the majority of his life has been spent confined to a wheelchair with a computer speaking for him, Stephen Hawking was still able to contribute greatly to human knowledge–partly thanks to his brilliance and partly thanks to the generosity of Caius College, according to ZME Science.
“That fellowship was a turning point in my life, as the college made sure I could continue my research, despite my increasing disability,” Stephen Hawking said.
The young life of Stephen Hawking was dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie The Theory of Everything, which you can read more about here.
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