A Wigan mother has spoken of how Stephen Hawking inspired her after her young son was diagnosed with an incurable illness.
Alex Johnson drew strength from Prof Hawking’s experiences when she discovered her son Jack, now 10, had Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
She went on to set up charity Joining Jack, with husband and former Wigan Warriors player Andy Johnson, to raise money for research into the muscle-wasting disease.
Mrs Johnson paid tribute after the announcement that Prof Hawking had died yesterday at the age of 76.
Seen as one of the world’s finest scientific minds, he had motor neurone disease, which affects the brain and nerves.
Mrs Johnson said: “He was such an inspirational guy. For me it was the fact he was only given two years to live and he lived until 76. That’s incredible.
“I think he has achieved so much in his life, even with such severe physical limitations. I think it inspired me to think that Jack, who will eventually become completely paralysed by his condition, can still go on to live a fulfilling life where he can contribute to society.”
She said Jack enjoys coding and gaming and she hopes he will be able to go to university.
Prof Hawking was born in Oxford and became one of the world’s most acclaimed cosmologists.
He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his 20s, eventually becoming wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication.
But despite this, he continued to travel the world giving science lectures and writing papers about the basic laws which govern the universe.
Jack will be the official race starter at the Run Wigan Festival on Sunday, which is organised by Joining Jack.