Stephen Hawking takes part in the internet fundraising challengeYouTube: MND Association

Struck down by motor neurone disease as a promising young doctoral student, Professor Stephen Hawking is among the most prominent sufferers of the devastating illness in the world.

Now he has become the latest in a series of celebrities to take on the Ice Bucket Challenge in aid of research into the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that paralysed him at the age of 21.

A video posted on Tuesday onto the YouTube account of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) shows Professor Hawking explaining that his pneumonia last year prevents him from being drenched in water himself.

However, his family nobly step up to take the hit for him, and his three children and one of his three grandchildren are promptly doused in the bucket of ice-cold water now ubiquitous on social media around the world.

It would not be the Ice Bucket Challenge without a round of nominations, and Professor Hawking’s nominations at the end of the video include the director of the Science Museum and the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. As yet, none have commented on their prospects for emulating the most famous scientist in the world.

Professor Hawking’s entry into the social media phenomenon is the latest in a series of personal triumphs for the eminent academic, defying his physical limitations. He has outlasted his initial prognosis by almost 50 years, participated in zero-gravity flight in 2007 and has appeared on various popular TV programmes including The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory.

Various unlikely figures, including George W Bush and Bill Gates, have taken part to raise funds for ALS research. Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Professor Hawking in a BBC television film in 2004, has also taken the challenge, which has so far raised almost £50 million worldwide, including £38 million for the leading US and UK ALS charities.


Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, has gamely agreed to Prof Hawking's nomination, and uploaded his own ice bucket video. Whether the Chancellor himself responds similarly remains to be seen.

V-C Borysiewicz gets messy for ALSYouTube: Cambridge University