Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Language Limitations

Dr. Stephen Hawking, British physicist, is 'on the road to recovery' according to Dr. Hawking has been suffering from a chest infection. Over the weekend his condition was reported as being 'very serious'. Now, however, he's expected to make a full recovery -- from the chest infection, that is.
For most of his adult life, Dr. Hawking has suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He is almost completely paralyzed. He cannot speak and communicates through a voice synthesizer activated by his fingers.
He is 67 years old and according to ALS predictions should have died 25 or 30 years ago. Instead, he lectures around the world and is revered for his work on celestial black holes, cosmology and quantum gravity. He reached celebrity status with the 1988 publication of A Brief History of Time.
Coverage of Dr. Hawking's chest infection and hospitalization speaks to compartmentalization in the extreme.
Perhaps I'm just fixated on the minutiae of language, but hasn't the guy been seriously ill for most of his life?
Don't get me wrong. I'm a great fan of Stephen Hawking and I'm thrilled the chest infection is clearing up. But since he was seriously ill before he got the chest infection, shouldn't there be another way to describe the impact of the chest infection? Perhaps serious illness squared or something. I mean, it just seems to me that a mathematician would want more quantifiable precision when describing his health.
Or perhaps I'm just tired.

1 comment:

Marnie said...

One of my good friends is suffering from ALS and has received a diagnosis of 1 year or less. If Mr. Hawkins can live 25 years with this illness, then perhaps my friend can outlive the expectations of the medical doctors. It's quite a disabling disease.