Stephen Hawking, the world-famous theoretical physicist, has died at the age of 76. He passed away in the early hours of Wednesday 14 March at his home in Cambridge, said his family.
In a statement, 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.
“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.”
Scientists and famous figures around the world are paying tribute to Hawking.
Sad to hear about Stephen Hawking. What a remarkable life. His contributions to science will be used as long as there are scientists, and there are many more scientists because of him. He spoke about the value and fragility of human life and civilisation and greatly enhanced both
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) March 14, 2018
“Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies; he was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty,” said Martin Rees, the UK’s astronomer royal. “This was Stephen Hawking. He had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and it was thought that he might not survive long enough even to finish his PhD. But, amazingly, he lived on to the age of 76.
“Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he didn’t just survive. He became one of the most famous scientists in the world – acclaimed as a world-leading researcher in mathematical physics, for his best-selling books about space, time and the cosmos, and for his astonishing triumph over adversity.
“Tragedy struck Stephen Hawking when he was only 22. He was diagnosed with a deadly disease, and his expectations dropped to zero. He himself said that everything that happened since then was a bonus. And what a triumph his life has been.
“His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his bestselling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds – a manifestation of amazing willpower and determination.”
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
Sean Carroll, a physics professor at US university Caltech, said: “Stephen Hawking was the rare famous scientist who deserved every bit of his fame. A brilliant physicist and an inspirational person. And quite a character.”
“Stephen Hawking was a great physicist, a great public communicator, and a great icon for science and rationalism throughout the world. He will be sorely missed,” said Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute in London.
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
Physicist James Hartle, whose work with Prof Hawking led to the Hartle-Hawking model of the universe’s origins, said his colleague had “inspired a lot of people”.
Prof Hartle told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “What was unique about him was that he had a marvellous ability to see through all the clutter in physics and to see what the essential points are and that, of course, was a great thing for going forward.”
He added: “My memory of him would be on several fronts: first our work together, as a scientist, and second as a human being whose whole story is of triumph over adversity and who inspired a lot of people, including me.”
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: “Stephen Hawking overcame unimaginable challenges to become one of the most influential and renowned scientists of our time. His life is a testament to the power of human creativity and imagination.
“He was elected a Fellow to the Royal Society at the exceptionally early age of 32. He was also exceptional in his ability to connect with and inspire the public the world over. That he achieved all of this despite a long battle with motor neurone disease will serve as an inspiration to all. He will be sorely missed.”
Hawking transformed our understanding of black holes by combining the two pillars of 20th century physics, general relativity and quantum mechanics. He predicted that black holes should radiate a stream of photons, defying long-held beliefs that nothing, not even light, could escape their clutches.
This prediction, dubbed Hawking radiation, is probably his most influential work, but Hawking spent his life probing many deep questions about the nature of space, time and the origins of the universe.
As a pop-culture icon, he brought physics to the masses and inspired a generation of physicists, most famously with his book A Brief History of Time. In 1963, Hawking was diagnosed with a neurological disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and told he had just two years to live, a prediction that he defied for many decades.
This story is being updated.
Read more: Hawking timeline: A brief history of black holes; Stephen Hawking at 70: Exclusive interview; The man who saves Stephen Hawking’s voice; Stephen Hawking gets taste of zero gravity
More on these topics: