Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who influenced the world of science and blessed the world with his enigmatic sense of humour, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76.
Prof. Hawking’s brilliance shined through despite being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21. Doctors expected him to live for only two more years. But Hawking had a form of the disease that progressed more slowly than usual. He survived for more than half a century.
One can’t help but question how science would have progressed if circumstances with Hawking had been different. How would Hawking have managed if he was born in Africa? This is what some people had to say:
Hornsby: He would have dropped out of the university especially because he wasn’t even from a very rich home in the UK. One can suppose the same status would persist for an African situation. To answer your question, we would have lost out on a brilliant mind.
Kwabena: If he was born in Africa his brilliant mind would either have been stifled by our educational system, he may have been too poor to even survive his illness to become this brilliant, or on the off chance he overcame those odds, would have left africa for a better life outside where he would still make his contributions there. And what we would get in return was “Hawking is from Africa”. We’ve had brilliant minds. Thomas Mensah, who owns a whole lot of fibre patents and improved fibre optics considerably from what it was originally, is Ghanaian. Born in Kumasi and was there till Senior High School, I think, but here we are.
Winston: The Ghanaian educational system doesn’t have a structure that supports the expansion of the capabilities of savants in terms of helping them to fully appreciate their capabilities despite their possible challenges. Honestly at the end of the day he will have to find a way to leave the country in order to blossom. It’s not particularly an issue of Africa being unable to nurture him but its a combination of the poverty in the region and its resultant focus on the accomplishment of the first two to three levels of Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs. I have been to the school for special needs in Dzorwulu and trust me its not good looking. In Ghana he could have been classified as dyslexic and then thrown in there
Manu: His disability didn’t show up till he was almost done with uni. He would have been regarded as a smart kid and that would have helped him at least through the early part of his education or even university i think. His more advanced work would have suffered unless he travelled though.
Ida Birkenmose: Hmm… well Africa is big – based on Ghana and the friends I have there I believe he would have been born with the same intelligence but maybe with a more limited access to further education unless he was born in a family with more money than the average. Also his sickness require great medical interference which might also be difficult for him to get in Ghana – again, unless he had been born with money. I definitely believe he would be the same person and appreciated for his intelligence – but might have trouble even living with ALS.
Stephen: It is a miracle he survived this long, even given the fact that he was born in America. He would not have survived this long if he was born in Africa. Our educational system, also, would have not been able to support him or educate him to the level he got to in the US. He would have left the continent either for educational or health reasons, most probably both.
Nana Amma: There are so many factors in Africa that would have crippled Hawking further than his disease already have. African superstition for one. Lack of medical resources to help him manage his illness. Our educational system would not have been able to give him the education he needed considering he was such a savant. His family was not wealthy, in Africa that would stunted his progress a lot.
Manny: Apart from him not being able to achieve so much in Science, lets look at the health sector. Hawking would most likely have died 50 years ago. Not coming from a rich family to get those drugs, would be so likely. I mean like a 99% chance.Consider the Ghanaian healthcare system then too… highly improbable
The general consensus seems to be that Hawking would not have lived as long or would have needed to travel out of the continent to further his education or manage his progressive disease. Overall, we can draw the conclusion that Africa is not advanced as it likes to believe, especially if it cannot nurture it’s own set of brilliant minds without help from the West. Africa, as a whole has a long way to go in matters of education, health and aiding it’s citizens in achieving the very best internationally.