World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking died at his home in Cambridge early on Wednesday morning, at the age of 76.
The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and largely considered to be one of the greatest scientists of his generation. He wrote several popular science books including ‘A Brief History of Time’; the book - published in 1988 - has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and spent a record 237 weeks on the British Sunday Times bestseller list.
Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. At the age of 22, he was diagnosed with a rare and slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that gradually paralyzed him over decades.
The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesizer.
Hawking’s children Lucy, Robert and Tim issued a statement saying that they 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 humor inspired people across the world”, the statement reads.
Professor Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics; he also discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing - a phenomenon that would later become known as the ‘Hawking radiation’.
Through his work with mathematician Roger Penrose he demonstrated that Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.