UPDATED: Professor Stephen Hawking has taken on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Morwenna Jones 27 August 2014

UPDATE:  The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has completed the challenge.  You can watch his video here.  

Dressed in a shirt and tie, in his video, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz says to the camera, "I am pleased, I suppose, to be taking part in the ice-bucket challenge on behalf of the Motor Neurone Disease Association and I thank Stephen Hawking for my nomination for this particular challenge.  He then procedes to give his nominations, the Chief Executive of the Welfare Trust, the Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council and the Chief Executive of the MRC Molecular Biology laboratory in Cambridge before having a bucket of icy water thrown over him.  

Professor Stephen Hawking has become the latest celebrity to take part in the ice-bucket challenge and has nominated the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University to complete it next.

In a YouTube video entitled 'Professor Stephen Hawking does the Ice Bucket Challenge for #MND', Professor Hawking joins a list of illustrious celebrity participants including actor Benedict Cumberbatch who played Professor Hawking in the 2004 BBC film ‘Hawking’.  In his video, Cumberbatch endures the challenge, which aims to increase awareness for Motor Neurone Disease and has raised £2.1 million for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, three times.

Professor Hawking on the other hand, is less extreme.  Arguably the world’s most high-profile sufferer of Motor Neurone Disease, in his video, he tells the camera ‘I support the ALS ice bucket challenge in support of the MNDA, the Motor Neurone Disease Association’.  The seventy-two year old, whose previous adventures include a zero gravity flight, then explains that, for health reasons, he has asked his children to complete the challenge instead.

“Because I had pneumonia last year, it would not be wise for me to have a bucket of cold water poured over me. But my children, Robert, Lucy and Tim, gallantly volunteered to take the challenge for me”, he tells viewers.  “I urge you to donate to the MNDA, to eliminate this terrible disease.

The camera then moves to focus on a bench, where the mathematician’s three children and one of his three grandchildren, have buckets of icy water thrown over them.  The two-minute clip then closes with a thank-you from Stephen Hawking and his family for their nomination, but not before the Professor’s own nominations have been announced on the screen:

“Professor Stephen Hawking, MND Association Patron would like to nominate…

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum

Lord Sainsbury, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

…and Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.”

The final clip of Professor Hawking's video

When contacted, the University Press Office declined to comment on the nominations.  Consequently, it is as yet unknown if Lord Sainsbury and Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz will partake in the latest ‘hashtag activism’ phenomenon. 

But that hasn’t stopped students expressing their approval of Professor Hawking’s support for the challenge.  Catherine Maguire is a third year MML student from Trinity Hall, where Professor Hawking began his graduate work.

“So many celebrities are doing this challenge, and one can’t help but feel a certain element of narcissism in their actions.  But I think that Stephen Hawking’s nomination was a really powerful gesture.  His commitment to ensuring that others can enjoy as long and fulfilling a life as he has done is rather inspiring. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that his nomination is perhaps the most meaningful yet”, she said. 

Chris Rowe, a third year Historian at Downing agrees. "It's great to see Stephen Hawking taking part – a pertinent reminder that there is a genuine and worthy cause behind this internet craze," he said.

Professor Hawking's challenge has also drawn praise from outside of Cambridge. Sally Light, the Chief Executive of the MND Association said that she had been '"blown away" by the "who's who" of celebrities supporting the challenge and expressing her thanks on behalf of the Association.  

"The amazing sums of money being donated across the world and with sister organisations in the USA and Australia too will go a long way towards finding out more about the disease for which there is no current cure", she said.

According to the MND Association, MND affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time and kills five people every day.  Half of those who die are within 14 months of diagnosis.

If you would like to donate £5 on Prof Hawking’s behalf, text ICED55 to 70070 or visit the Motor Neurone Disease Association’s Just Giving page

What do you think about the Ice Bucket Challenge?  Read Shachi Amdekar's article on it here.