Professor Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s most well-known scientists and has had his life story told in books, documentaries, and Oscar-winning dramas.
But conspiracy theorists claim we hardly know anything about the award-winning physicist, who celebrated his 76th birthday on Monday.
For there are certain corners of the internet where people are convinced that the real Professor Hawking died decades ago and that in the intervening years the political and scientific elite have installed a lookalike to act in his place.
Some of those who believe he has been supplanted think Professor Hawking, Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, died in 1985 – three years before the publication of his best-selling book A Brief History of Time.
The idea might seem outlandish, but conspiracy theorists have outlined six signs that they claim clearly support their idea, ranging from the way he looks to the complexity of his theories.
Here FEMAIL shares the ‘clues’ – and looks into the reasons why theorists think he has been replaced…
Conspiracy theory: Some people claim the real Stephen Hawking has died and the man posing as him is just a lookalike. Pictured, the professor at a red carpet appearance
People change as they age – there’s no doubt about that – but, as the conspiracy lovers point out, not many people look younger in 2017 than they did in 1982, especially if they’re suffering from a disease as disfiguring as ALS.
Nor do people’s ears decrease in size and as they get older; and, although gums can recede and teeth can wear down and fall out, it’s rare for teeth to change in structure completely without major dental work.
Hair that gets blonder and less grey with age can be explained, but why would someone vain enough to dye their hair neglect their teeth so badly?
In fact, when the sceptics examine photographs of the man they consider to be an imposter, they often comment that his teeth look as if they’ve been made worse, with the bottom teeth longer than they were previously (and disrespectfully referred to by some members of the conspiracy community as “the twin towers”) and the top teeth filed away to stubs.
Changing face? Skeptics say Hawking’s teeth and ears have changed. Pictured in 1979, left and 2009 (right)
It’s not just how he looks that’s the problem – there’s the issue with his condition. The average life expectancy for a person suffering from ALS is said to be four years from diagnosis. Stephen was diagnosed in 1963 with a prognosis of two years.
Yet it would appear that he is still alive – miraculously, some would say – some 55 years later.
The wedding photographs
The pictures taken on the day of his marriage to first wife Jane Wilde (whose book Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen was made into the 2014 film The Theory Of Everything) look pretty normal. There’s Hawking, long-faced, square-jawed with his floppy dark hair and crooked teeth holding hands with his new baby-faced wife.
First marriage: Stephen Hawking with his first wife, Jane Hawking, at their 1965 wedding
Hollywood: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as the couple in The Theory of Everything
But it’s the photos of his second wedding, when he married Elaine Mason, a woman who’d worked as his nurse, that have come under scrutiny.
Photos available of that wedding show Mason wearing a different wedding outfit in each and looking decidedly older with shorter redder hair in the second photo.
In the first, she appears with Stephen Hawking and in the second, she is standing alongside someone who certainly looks like Hawking but who, doubters have concluded, is more than likely a lookalike. Independent investigators think old pictures of Hawking are gradually being erased and replaced with Photoshopped or even re-shot versions.
Same man? Some claim it is not the same Hawking in these wedding pictures with wife Elaine
The voice-synthesizing computer
His voice-synthesizing computer is another matter for conjecture. It’s said to work by Hawking twitching a cheek muscle to scan and choose words on the screen and these written words are then turned into spoken words via the voice synthesizer.
Those who believe that Professor Hawking is a puppet for the elite don’t believe that anyone could do all this simply by twitching a cheek muscle and have observed that he’s not constantly moving his face when he’s ‘talking’.
What they think is actually happening is that the professor isn’t doing anything at all and the voice we hear is the result of NASA astrophysicists typing information into a computer – information that they want the masses to hear and trust – and it being transmitted to the computer attached to Hawking’s wheelchair.