The name of Stephen Hawking is widely recognized both within and outside the scientific community as a premier scientist and best-selling author. But he is probably as famous for having overcome great physical odds as he is for his contributions to theoretical astrophysics and cosmology: Nearly all of his major work came after he was stricken in his early 20s with the debilitating neurological condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

While Hawking is certainly one of the most celebrated scientists with a severe physical disability, he is by no means the only such accomplished researcher. Geerat Vermeij, a professor of geology at the University of California, Davis, and a leading authority on the biology and evolution of mollusks, has been completely blind since he was three. Biochemist Edwin Krebs of the University of Washington, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine, is deaf.

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