Stephen Hawking may have had polio, was misdiagnosed with ALS, claims medical expert

Stephen Hawking passed away in the early hours of March 14 at his Cambridge residence at the age of 76. 

Stephen Hawking may have had polio, was misdiagnosed with ALS, claims medical expert

New Delhi: Was the late British scientist Stephen Hawking misdiagnosed? A medical expert has claimed so.

According to Dr Christopher Cooper, a physician at the University of California, Hawking was actually suffering from polio.

Dr Cooper has argued that legendary physicist's symptoms don’t align with those of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which he was suffering from since the age of 21.

At the time of his diagnosis, Hawking was given a mere two years to live. However, he survived the illness for more than five decades.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Dr Cooper claims that the probability of Hawking suffering from ALS is 'low' because his age at the onset and prolonged survival 'do not match our understanding' of the disease.

Pointing out two outbreaks of polio in the UK and the US that occurred in 1916 and 1952, Dr Cooper suggests polio as a potential cause for the scientist's condition.

In a letter to the Financial Times, Dr Cooper said that Hawking’s neurological and motor system impairment could have been caused when he contracted polio shortly before he was diagnosed with ALS in 1963.

He says degeneration of the physicist's brain only affected the motor system, leading to weakness of peripheral muscles – symptoms typically seen in polio sufferers, the Daily Mail reported.

Professor Hawking passed away in the early hours of March 14 at his Cambridge residence at the age of 76.

ALS had made Hawking dependent on a wheelchair for movement and a computerized voice system for communications.

The degenerative condition is a subset of the motor neuron disease umbrella that makes up nearly 90 percent of MND diagnoses, meaning the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Outlining a number of anomalies regarding the condition of the great physicist, Dr Cooper wrote that the affliction Hawking suffered began when he was 21 years old and his illness lasted 55 years. He further states that the age of onset and clinical course do not match the understanding of ALS.

He went on to state, “The probability that Hawking had what we commonly call ALS is low.”

He further said that while he does not doubt the severity of Hawking's neuromuscular disease, it is possible that it may not have been ALS.

Dr Cooper added that perhaps Hawking was unlucky to contract poliomyelitis or a similar viral infection a few years later in 1963.

Dr Cooper assumes in his theory that the 'neurological problem only affected the motor system leading to weakness of peripheral muscles'.

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