My Brief History Kindle Edition
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- Length: 145 pages
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As the title indicates, the book is very short (144 pages) and is divided into even shorter chapters. Each chapter is more like a snippet that focuses on one particular topic. The earlier chapters deal with Hawking's upbringing in London as the son of caring and slightly eccentric parents, his education at Oxford and Cambridge and his initial struggles with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). Hawking gives us a good idea of the pioneering research on black holes and the Big Bang which he did with Roger Penrose and others. There are also anecdotes about other scientists like Richard Feynman and encounters with celebrities like Popes and Presidents. Hawking talks unflinchingly about his disease without a hint of self-pity, and this is a quality that continues to make him so widely admired, sometimes to the point of reverence.
The later chapters deal with his current research on quantum gravity, his various trips to different parts of the world (including a few weeks spent every year at Caltech) and his two divorces. One revealing part of the book is Hawking's description of the several occasions on which he was on the brink of death; it was only the dedication of his wives, Jane and Elaine, that saved his life. Old and new photographs (some showcasing Hawking's bawdy sense of humor) enliven the narrative. The book ends on a characteristically optimistic note. Hawking says that his devastating illness has not held him back from fully living life and he is grateful for his gifts and for the support others have given him. There's some useful advice there for all of us.
By Stephen Hawking
Published in Great Britain by Transworld Publishers, 2013. Bantam Edition. Pages: 127
Special features: many photographs from throughout his life
Price - $10.48 or £8.99
Stephen Hawking, a brilliant man, a man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis writes a memoir in anticipation of his death however, death did not come as soon as expected. The author, Stephen Hawking, wrote about his life as a brilliant scientist, a husband, a father, and a man living with an incurable disease. Hawking was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was director of research at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death. He received his education at both Oxford and Cambridge and is the author of numerous books and scientific articles in which he wrote through use of augmentative and alternative communication.
Hawking wrote this memoir himself with use of his AAC technology, an eye tracking system, that he was able to use on his computer to type. Basically, instead of typing with his hands he typed with his eyes. He had a little help after the initial writing from a literary agent, Al Zuckerman, and then before publishing Bantam’s editor Peter Guzzardi helped rewrite and revise his work before its final publishing. His book was an easy read in my opinion with clear chapters and thought out ideas. I am impressed by his ability to write the majority of this book himself and just through use of his eyes to type. It could not have been easy for a man using AAC to write an entire book. He must have had a lot of patience, perseverance, and practice with his technology in order to write such great literary works over his lifetime.
This book would be great for someone looking for a brief insight into Hawking’s overall life. I was not interested in the majority of the science jargon he spoke of but science and theoretical research is much of how he spent his life I found out. I was primarily interested in Hawking’s book because he had a disease, ALS, in which as a future speech-language pathology is a disease I am interested in. ALS relates to speech pathology in that individuals with ALS lose the ability to use their voice and have to rely on augmentative and alternative ways to communicate. He received a tracheotomy which took away his ability to speak “For a time, the only way I could communicate was to spell out words letter by letter by raising my eyebrows when someone pointed to the right letter on a spelling card” (Hawking, pg. 85). He had multiple increases in technology over his lifetime living with ALS and the one he spoke of most was a device called an equalizer which worked with an eye tracking system so he could continue to live his life even without a voice. He would use the eye tracking device to spell or select what he wanted to say and the device was able to say it out loud for him.
His memoir opened my eyes to how much of his life he lived being cared for by person after person. I was surprised that he spent the majority of his life traveling, moving, and having so many different care takers. At one point he was being cared for by students “I also had one of my research students live with us. He helped me with getting up and going to bed and some meals…” (Hawking, pg. 77). I cannot imagine being married, two children in the house, and now a student all under one roof. It must not have been easy on his wife and family living with his disease and having to have additional people in the house caring for your father or husband. Hawking had a great outlook on life, he spoke of his first wife’s depression on more than one occasion and how she struggled to cope with having children along with her husband’s disability. He kept a positive attitude and was motivated by the possibility of death being soon and he was determined to work hard and make a difference before death. “When you are faced with the possibility of an early death, it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are lots of things you want to do” (Hawking, pg. 37). In his memoir he did not speak of the bad times, the struggles, or the pain, he only spoke of the positives which amazed me and says a lot about his character.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in Stephen Hawking and who is looking for a brief look into what his life was like. The book was insightful and eye opening to what a long life with the disease ALS is like. His memoir was inspiring and uplifting to think that you can be successful even without a voice.