British scientist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Wednesday March 14 2018

By AFP
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LONDON,

Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose mental genius and physical disability made him a household name and inspiration across the globe, has died at age 76, his family said Wednesday.

Hawking, whose 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" became an unlikely worldwide bestseller and cemented his superstar status, dedicated his life to unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

'PEACEFULLY'

His genius and wit won over fans from far beyond the rarified world of astrophysics.

He died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," professor Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Britain's Press Association news agency.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on April 21, 2008, British physicist Stephen Hawking (L) and his daughter Lucy Hawking give a lecture entitled 'Why We Should Go Into Space' during the 50 Years of NASA lecture series at George Washington University in Washington, DC. PHOTO | JIM WATSON | AFP

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

Hawking defied predictions he would only live for a few years after developing a form of motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on November 28, 2016 Pope Francis (L) meets with English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking at the Vatican on November 28, 2016. PHOTO | FILIPPO MONTEFORTE | AFP

The illness gradually robbed him of mobility, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser.

RELATIVITY

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world," the family said.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on September 25, 2008, professor Stephen Hawking is pictured during a visit to Cape Finisterre, some 90 km from Santiago, northwestern Spain. PHOTO | MIGUEL RIOPA | AFP

"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."

Born on January 8, 1942, Stephen William Hawking became one of the world's most well-regarded scientists, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on August 12, 2009, US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House. PHOTO | JEWEL SAMAD | AFP

His work focused on bringing together relativity — the nature of space and time — and quantum theory — how the smallest particles in the Universe behave — to explain the creation of the Universe and how it is governed.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on May 14, 2008, South Africa former President Nelson Mandela (R) meets with British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking (L) in Johannesburg. PHOTO | DENIS FARRELL | AFPStephen Hawking

In 1974, he became one of the youngest fellows of Britain's most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, at the age of 32.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on June 12, 2006 (FILES) This file picture taken on June 12, 2006 shows British theoretical physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking (C) arriving at Hong Kong's international airport. PHOTO | SAMANTHA SIN | AFP

In 1979 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, where he had moved from Oxford University to study theoretical astronomy and cosmology.

Newton was a previous holder of that prestigious post.

Stephen Hawking

In this file photo taken on January 17, 2008, British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking offers a press conference at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago after after meeting with President Michelle Bachelet. PHOTO | MARTIN BERNETTI | AFP

Inside the shell of his increasingly useless body was a razor-sharp mind, fascinated by the nature of the Universe, how it was formed and how it might end.

"My goal is simple," he once said. "It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."