It was Miles Mathis who, to my knowledge, first asserted that the Stephen Hawking we all know, the guy who speaks through a computer and writes books with eye movements, was just an actor. As Mathis points out, all it takes is some reading between the lines. From Wikipedia:
During a visit to CERN on the border of France and Switzerland in mid-1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia, which in his condition was life-threatening; he was so ill that Jane was asked if life support should be terminated. She refused, but the consequence was a tracheotomy, which required round-the-clock nursing care and the removal of what remained of his speech. The National Health Service was ready to pay for a nursing home, but Jane was determined that he would live at home. The cost of the care was funded by an American foundation. Nurses were hired for the three shifts required to provide the round-the-clock support he required. One of those employed was Elaine Mason, who was to become Hawking’s second wife.
According to ALS Worldwide,
Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death among those with ALS because of decreased respiratory capacity, weakened diaphragm musculature, accumulation of phlegm and mucus in the throat and/or nasal passage, and/or contact with others who may cause or exacerbate infection.
So it makes sense that Hawking would have died that way, and further, that his wife, Jane Wilde, would eventually want out of the project, suing for “divorce” in 1995 so she could marry a living man she loved, Jonathon Jones.
It made no sense that Hawking remarried, that is, it could only have been to someone who would be happy being lifetime caretaker to an invalid. The idea that the marriage could be consummated in his advanced stages is left to the imagination, but is highly doubtful. Surely Elaine Mason, like replacement Hawking himself, was merely an actor.
in 1963 Hawking was given a life expectancy of two years. That makes me wonder if the Hawking project got its start perhaps as early as the mid-1960s, but no one has gone that route. I will stipulate that he lived 22 years with the disease even as that puts him in the upper 5% of sufferers of the disease. It is feasible, even if unlikely.
Driving down the highway yesterday I was bored and mulling this and that, and subtracted 1985 from 2018, and came up with 33, and slapped my forehead. In other words, the Hawking project ended 33 years after it began, and there’s that number again.
Of course, it is not exactly 33 years – it is 32 years and 9 months (as Hawking was said to be in Switzerland in 1985 in July), but think about it. In the 1980s they must have known that Hawking was limited in years and must have planned ahead for his demise. Finding a suitable replacement would be a chore, and establishing in the public mind that the replacement was the original, as with Barbara Walters, an even bigger one. I suspect that the book A Brief History of Time, which came out in 1988, was written and published to cement in our minds that the replacement Stephen Hawking was and always was the real guy. The photo on the cover of the book became the real man … in the public mind.
It could be that having him in Switzerland in 1985 was a ruse, a way of deceiving British authorities, avoiding having to account for a death in the official records. Stephen Hawking left the country, and Stephen Hawking returned. (I do not rule out the possibility that replacement Stephen Hawking was merely replaced by replacement-replacement Stephen Hawking at that time, an ongoing project.)
So at the very least we cannot know how long in planning before his actual death his replacement was planned, but if I had to guess, I would say that something triggered the wheels to be put in motion in March of 1985, 33 years ago.Perhaps that is when he really died. I do not know how to check for public appearances during that time, or who to trust even if such a record is available.
But then, there is the selection of the date of death to consider. As others have noted, his date of death was an arbitrary thing, since he had already died, so selection of the date March 14th could have been anything. That it happened to be Albert Einstein’s birthday is very convenient.