Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most renowned theoretical physicists, has passed away at the age of 76. He died peacefully at his Cambridge home early Wednesday morning, his family said.
Hawking was famous for his unparalleled work in black holes and relativity, with his popular science books, including “A Brief History of Time,” selling millions globally. He far outlived a rare form of motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that he was diagnosed with at the age of 22, exceeding doctors’ expectations, the BBC reports.
The condition left the British scientist and professor in a wheelchair for most of his life, unable to speak except through a computerized voice synthesizer. Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, released a statement, saying, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”
The three are Hawking’s children with his first wife, Jane. They praised their father’s “courage and persistence,” and added that his “brilliance and humor” were an inspiration to many. The statement also said, “He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”
Hawking was the first scientist to put forth a theory on cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics. He also found that black holes emit radiation and eventually fade into nothingness, which was later called Hawking radiation.
Working with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, Hawking showed how Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity implies that space and time would have started in the Big Bang, and end in black holes.
His scientific genius and good humor made him a popular pop culture fixture, with Hawking making guest appearances on television shows such as The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, and Red Dwarf. His life was also portrayed in a television series and on film.
Hundreds of tributes to Hawking have poured in from all corners of the world to celebrate his life and his work. A book of condolence will be opened at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, where Hawking was a fellow.