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.
The Briton died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning, his family said.
Professor Hawking contracted motor neurone disease in 1963 and was given two years to live but he went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein.
"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world".
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"Stephen 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".
Published for the first time in 1988, "A Brief History of Time" stayed on the Sunday Times bestsellers list for an unprecedented 237 weeks.
The best-known theoretical physicist of his time, Hawking wrote so lucidly of the mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, "A Brief History of Time", became an worldwide bestseller, making him one of science's biggest celebrities since Albert Einstein. His best-known prediction, named by the community as Hawking Radiation, transformed black holes from inescapable gravitational prisons into objects that instead shrink and fade away over time.
Since then, the professor used a voice synthesiser which enabled him to control a computer screen using his cheek for data entry. He was able to move only a few fingers on one hand and was completely dependent on others or on technology for virtually everything - bathing, dressing, eating, even speech.
Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England.
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Hawking became a hero to math and science geeks and pop culture figure, guest-starring as himself on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Simpsons".
In May last year, Hawking warned that humans should leave earth within 100 years if we wanted to survive.
Among those early to pay tribute were the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and NASA.
Aimed at a non-scientific audience it attempted to explain some fundamental principles of physics and answer some of the oldest questions of mankind; how, why and where the universe began, how it works and where it will end. He was also wonderfully amusing with a fantastic media savviness that propelled him into A-list celebrity stardom as few other scientists before. "Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure".
A sign of his popularity came in October when Cambridge put Hawking's 1966 thesis online for the first time, and demand for the document was so high the university's website crashed.
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