Disability either from birth or later in life can make everyday existence challenging. A disabled person struggles to be able to fulfil the basic activities like a normal person let alone the task of having big dreams and ambitions and being able to work towards pursuing them.
However, our world has seen some really accomplished scientists who will make you think otherwise.
Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
People know Alfred Noble for mainly two reasons, one is his invention of dynamite and the second is the fact that the wealth he donated lead to the institution of the prestigious Nobel prize. Undoubtedly, either in science or any other area, The Nobel prize is the highest civilian honour which the residents of this planet can earn. However, it may be less familiar to many that Nobel suffered from migraines, illness, weakness, convulsions and even epilepsy amongst others since his childhood. Nobel was able to survive this solely because of the time and care her mother gave to him. Nobel’s story highlights the role family, especially parent’s play in the survival and flourishment of their kids. In his autobiography entitled ‘You say I am a Riddle’, Nobel writes
My cradle looked a deathbed, and for years
a mother watched with ever anxious care,
so little chance, to save the flickering light,
I scarce could muster the strength to drain the breast,
and the convulsions followed till I gasped
upon the brink of nothingness – my frame
a school for agony with death for goal
Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Edison, the Father of electricity, the inventor of the light bulb and arguably the most recognized American scientist in modern times. Edison suffered from scarlet fever in his childhood which left him deaf in both the ears. Instead of grumbling upon it, Edison took his deafness in a positive light. He once famously said, “Even though I am nearly deaf, I seem to be gifted with a kind of inner hearing which enables me to detect sounds and noises which the other ordinary person does not hear”. A phenomenal inventor Edison had over 1000 patents in his name. He lived for 84 years and died in 1931.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Since 20th century, Einstein has been a metaphor for intelligence. The German scientist for his work on the theory of relativity in physics and his views on life, death, and god had become a prominent voice in the global community. Little is known that Einstein had a learning disability from a young age and failed to grasp many concepts at school as quick as the rest of his classmates. It is known that he only learn to talk when he was four years old and it is likely that he suffered from dyslexia. Sometimes when people struggle with being different they develop greater empathy towards their fellow humans. This was possibly true in Einstein’s case as he was a staunch opponent of racism and the widely spread anti-Semitism in Germany. He recognized and propagated the “right of individuals to say and think what they pleased”, as this will lead to their utmost development.
Ralph William Braun (1940-2013)
The founder and CEO of the Braun Corporation suffered from muscular dystrophy and became wheelchair bound from the age of 14. An engineer by training he pursued his dreams in business as well. An inventor and innovator, he invented the world’s first battery-powered scooter and wheelchair lift which now positively affects the lives of millions of people. Sadly, Ralph is no longer alive but his legacy lives on.
Stephen William Hawking (1942-2018 )
Oxbridge educated Cosmologist and Physicist Stephen Hawking is probably the most famous scientist of the present time. Hawking suffered from the neuronal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which he contracted in his early 20s. The disease has left Hawking completely paralyzed with only his eyeballs able to move. This never stopped hawking from pursuing his passion for science. For his communications, a computer program called the “Equalizer” was developed by Walter Woltosz, CEO of Words Plus. Hawking in addition to his scientific career has contributed to various other causes like disability outreach, promoting education in Palestine, support for Euthanasia, and nuclear disarmament amongst others. A Hollywood movie ‘The theory of everything’ was made in 2014 as a tribute to Hawking’s life and struggles besides many other documentaries and movies on his life.
Mary Temple Grandin (1947- )
Born and raised in the USA, Mary suffers from Autism. She is currently a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. In 2010, Grandin has been recognized in the Time 100 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world in the “Heroes” category. She has won honorary degrees from Emory and McGill universities amongst others. She is also known for her TED talks and a long list of publications which she accomplished in her career of over 3 decades.
Farida Bedwei (1979- )
Born in Ghana in Africa, Farida was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of one. The condition affects both the movements and the reasoning ability of the sufferer. She along with her family migrated to the UK at an early age and went on to become a successful software engineer. She wrote a successful Novel called ‘Definition of a miracle’ and launched a small-scale loaning system in Ghana through a platform called gKudi. Being a woman, an African, and a disabled person, her achievements and motivation to keep working is an inspiration.