The physicist who shot to fame for his work on the theory of relativity and black holes died at his home in Cambridge on Wednesday morning at the age of 76.
Diagnosed at 22 with a rare case of motor neurone disease, doctors told him he only had a few years to live. He used an electric wheelchair and spoke through a voice synthesiser – his life story was documented through the 2015 film The Theory of Everything.
Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5
— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018
His children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim, said:
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 University of Cambridge releases a video commemorating him, and a book of condolence is now at Gonvile and Caius College, where he was a fellow.
Hawking discovered that if the Big Bang happened, it must have come from an infinitely small point, or a singularity, and predicted mini-black holes at the time of the Big Bang. His work on black holes led to the discovery of “Hawking radiation”: the idea that black holes leak energy and lose mass because of quantum effects at the edges of a black hole. During the 1970s, he also raised the idea that became known as the ‘information paradox’: anything entering a black hole is destroyed should the black hole evaporate, and the information would be lost from the Universe.
The book he is most famous for writing, A Brief History of Time, is now at the top of the Amazon Best Sellers list, and the website of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which Hawking has been a patron of since 2008, crashed due to the huge amount of donations.
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed him in The Theory of Everything, said:
We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
Hawking was depicted in cartoons such as Futurama and The Simpsons. In the 1990s he turned down a knighthood, reportedly because of issues surrounding the government’s science funding.