Renowned theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, passed away at the age of 76 at his family home in Cambridge, England, according to a family spokesperson. His family said that he died peacefully in the early hours of Wednesday, March 14.
A larger than life figure in the scientific community, Hawking was a mathematician, cosmologist, and an astronomer. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. The british scientist was best known for his work with mathematician Roger Penrose that merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to imply that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes. He also said that black holes are not completely black, they give out radiation, and will eventually fade away. This phenomenon later became known as Hawking radiation.
The theoretical physicist famously said that in order for humans to survive the next thousand years, we must look to space.
“I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars,” he was quoted as saying.
Hawking authored several popular science books. His famous book “A Brief History of Time” sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages.
The world renowned scientist suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neurone disease which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which gradually left him paralyzed and unable to speak. He later started making use of a speech synthesizer so he could communicate in a computerized voice. Hawking was diagnosed at the age of 21 and told that he only had two years to live. However, his disease progressed much slower than expected and he defied all expectations to live.
Hawking completed his undergraduate studies from the University of Oxford and later got his PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge. At the age of 32, he was one of the youngest people to become a Fellow of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific body and the oldest national scientific institution in the world. Between 1979 and 2009, he was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a prestigious post that had once been held by Isaac Newton.
He received numerous honorary degrees and awards during his lifetime. He was appointed as a Commander in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1982. In 2009, United States President Barack Obama also awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country.
In a statement, Hawking’s 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.
“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.”
Hawking leaves behind three children and three grandchildren.