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Stephen Hawking Turning 70

He has survived half-a-century with Lou Gehrig's disease
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2012 7:20 PM CST
Stephen Hawking Turning 70
Stephen Hawking, in a 2006 file photo.   (ELIZABETH DALZIEL)

(Newser) – British scientist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe, but he has left one mystery unsolved: How he has managed to survive so long with such a crippling disease. The physicist was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease when he was a 21-year-old at Cambridge. Most people die within a few years: Hawking will turn 70 on Sunday.

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"I don't know of anyone who's survived this long," says the director of the Motor Neurone Disease Care and Research Centre in London. The author of A Brief History of Time has achieved his greatness despite being nearly entirely paralyzed and in a wheelchair since 1970. He now communicates only by twitching his right cheek. Since catching pneumonia in 1985, Hawking has needed around-the-clock care and relies on a computer and voice synthesizer to speak. "The only trouble is (the voice synthesizer) gives me an American accent," he wrote on his website. (Hawking also is looking for an assistant.)

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