April 20, 2009, 8:41 PM — The man who is arguably the world's most famous scientist, who tries to help everyday people understand questions like how the universe began, is hospitalized with a chest infection.
Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time and the man many experts consider to be the top theoretical physicist in history, was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, which is part of the University of Cambridge, England, where he is a mathematics professor.
"Stephen Hawking is comfortable," said a spokesman for the university, which is northeast of London. "He's spending the night in the hospital. He has been suffering from a chest infection for the last several weeks."
The spokesman said they would be issuing an update on Hawking's health Tuesday morning.
There has been such a crush of traffic to Hawking's official Web site, that its administrators took its pages offline and replaced it with a brief statement about Hawking's admittance to the hospital.
"Stephen Hawking has become the public face for science, particularly cutting edge physics," said Dan Olds, principle analyst for the Gabriel Consulting Group. "His best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, was written so that average people could understand current theories on the origins of the universe and other pretty complicated questions."
Hawking's book, which was on the British Sunday Times bestseller list for 237 weeks, was first published in 1988. It took on complex questions: How did the universe begin? Will it end? If it does, how will it end? Hawking didn't try to answer the questions for his physics and mathematical colleagues. Instead, he wrote it for the average person who wanted someone to walk him through the expanse of the galaxy, exploring black holes and the idea of alternate dimensions.
The British professor, who was born in Oxford, England in 1942, is known for his study of cosmology, which focuses on the universe in its totality, along with his work on quantum gravity, which is theoretical physics. He focused a good deal of his work on black holes, predicting that they emit radiation, which is generally known as Hawking radiation.
Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's Disease. The neuro-degenerative disease is a progressive disorder that causes muscle weakness and atrophy.