How did Stephen Hawking talk? The Indian connection to British theoretical physicist’s conversations

By: | Updated: March 15, 2018 4:07 PM

Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which left him bound to a wheelchair and paralysed. He lost his voice in 1985 after a tracheotomy.

Stephen Hawking, the legendary British theoretical physicist, was 21 when the doctors initially gave him only a few years to live. (Reuters)

Stephen Hawking, the legendary British theoretical physicist, was 21 when the doctors initially gave him only a few years to live. He was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which left him bound to a wheelchair and paralysed. He lost his voice in 1985 after a tracheotomy. However, a technology developed by two Indian engineers — Arun Mehta and Vickram Crishna — helped him get his voice back. Mehta and Crishna developed eLocutor, a single-button typing and speaking software. During his visit to India in 2001, Hawking met Vickram Crishna in Bombay to develop a new program for his computerised machine fixed to the wheelchair, reported irishtimes.com.

In a video by The Scroll, Mehta said that he wrote eLocuter for Prof. Stephen Hawking which allows a person who is severely disabled to type and speak using a single button. Mehta says Hawking had met colleague Crishna in Bombay and that was where it all began. Recalling his meeting with the greatest physicist of all time, Crishna said that Hawking did not turn out that to be a forbidding figure at all. Crishna said that Hawking was just a fun guy who loved to make jokes and that he had a serious problem that needed serious attention.

Expressing the need to develop a better human interface for Hawking and make it easier for him to express himself as a warm human being, Crishna said that it became important to be able to be part of developing a technology solution to try and express that humanness which was so much a part of it.

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Another noted Indian scientist Dr Jayant Narlikar remembered his Cambridge contemporary and said that Hawking proved his medical prognosis wrong in 1964 and went on with his pioneering work in astrophysics. Hawking was junior to this the Pune-based astrophysicist at Cambridge who said that Hawking was an unusual personality in cosmology. Narlikar hailed Hawking for his a solid work on Black Holes, radiation emitted by them and overall physics. He also said that it was shocking for him to see Hawking outlive his medical condition and prove the medical prognosis wrong. Narlikar added that the condition of the iconic British physicist worsened over the years.

Hawking died peacefully in his home near Cambridge University on Wednesday, where he did much of his ground-breaking work on black holes and relativity. He was 76.

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