Stephen Hawking was admitted to a Cambridge hospital April 20 in “very ill” condition related to a chest infection. According to a statement issued by Cambridge University, the famous physicist is now comfortable, “and his family is looking forward to him making a full recovery.”
Hawking is perhaps most famous for his bestselling book “A Brief History of Time,” a tome for the popular audience that tackles the big questions of physics in an accessible way. Hawking has also become a fixture within pop culture ,and he has made numerous appearances on television shows as diverse as the “The Simpsons” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
The 67-year-old physicist has spent most of his life affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which has almost completely paralyzed his body and requires that he communicate through an electronic voice synthesizer. He was originally diagnosed in 1963.
Despite the paralysis, Hawking managed to not only delve into the mysteries of black holes, multidimensional universes and other phenomena, but take a 2007 “Vomit Comet” plane ride in which he experienced zero gravity, floating free of his wheelchair.
“Many people have asked me why I am taking this flight,” Hawking said at the time. “First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space.”
Born on Jan. 8, 1942, on the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer Galileo Galilei, Hawking has spent years pursuing a unified theory that unites Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity with the Theory of Quantum Physics. He currently serves as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a post held previously by the one and only Isaac Newton.