Hawking warns gifted disabled scientists could be left without financial support
“I wonder whether a young ambitious academic, with my kind of severe condition now, would find the same generosity and support in much of higher education,” Hawking said at a dinner that marked his 50th year as a fellow of Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge.
“Even with the best goodwill, would the money still be there? I fear not,” the 73-year-old professor added.
Suffering from progressing motor neurone disease (MND), he received support from the college. Hawking said that “Caius [college] gave me a home, literally and figuratively, and is a constant thread running through my life.”
“That fellowship [that Hawking received in 1965] was a turning point in my life, as the college made sure I could continue my research, despite my increasing disability.”
The college's master, Alan Fersht, replied to the words of Hawking, saying “Stephen questioned whether a young academic in his condition would get the same level of support today? For Caius at least, I can say emphatically 'yes'. The fellowship is a family, just as our students, our staff and our alumni are all parts of the Caian family.”
Fersht went on to say: “In 1965, none of us dreamt that we would be here, 50 years on, to celebrate this day. I say none, but I suspect I actually mean ‘all, but one’.”
Back in 2008, Hawking warned that £80m ($122m) of grant cuts could put Britain’s position in the international scientific community under threat. He said, “These grants are the lifeblood of our research effort; cutting them will hurt young researchers and cause enormous damage both to British science and to our international reputation,” according to the Guardian.