Scientist and author Stephen Hawking has died aged 76.
His family confirmed that he had died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, Britain, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
His children Lucy, Robert and Tim issued a statement: “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. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.
“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.”
A brief history
Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942, exactly 300 years after the death of Italian physicist Galileo Galilei. Hawking’s father, Frank, was a doctor of tropical medicine. His mother, Isobel, was a tax inspector and a secretary. He had two younger sisters and a brother.
At age 8, Hawking moved with his family to St Albans, where he went to school. He then graduated with first-class honours in natural science at Oxford’s University College. While he was a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, also known as motor neuron disease. He was told he had only a few years to live.
However, as the illness progressed more slowly than expected and he found inspiration in his girlfriend, Jane Wilde, Hawking began to work at his studies for the first time. He completed his doctorate on the origins of the universe, became a research fellow at Caius College and married Wilde in 1965.
In 1970, Hawking realised the mathematical approaches he developed with mathematician Roger Penrose could be applied to black holes, a term coined by physicist John Wheeler. Hawking worked for the next four years on black holes, discovering they weren’t totally black, but leaked radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation”.
For 30 years, Hawking was Cambridge’s Lucasian professor of mathematics, a chair once held by Isaac Newton. Then US president Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hawking in 2009, the year of his retirement.