John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter
Stephen Hawking, the physicist who brought cosmology to the masses with the best-seller A Brief History of Time, is "very ill" and has been taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, according to the University of Cambridge. Hawking is a professor in the university’s department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.
In a statement, the university said that Hawking is "is comfortable and being kept in hospital over night" but that no further details would be forthcoming before tomorrow morning.
Hawking, 67, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a rare degenerative disorder that has left him wheelchair-bound and almost totally paralyzed. The disease usually kills within three to five years, but it has been more than 45 years since Hawking was diagnosed. According to the Associated Press, Cambridge said that Hawking had been feeling under the weather for a few weeks before being taken to the hospital.
His work in theoretical physics led to the namesake Hawking radiation, a theorized form of radiation from the perimeter of a black hole. According to his theory, black holes gradually lose mass through this process and eventually evaporate—even though the process may take longer than our universe has yet existed.
"Professor Hawking is a remarkable colleague," said Peter Haynes, Hawking’s department head at Cambridge, in the statement. "We all hope he will be amongst us again soon."
Photo of Hawking: Wikimedia Commons