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Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

The astronomer, scientist, and author of A Brief History of Time, who defied the odds of illness and universal thought, has passed away

Stephen Hawking, the star scientist who published hugely popular books on the theories of our space and universe, has died aged 76. 

Hawking’s children – Lucy, Tim, and Robert, said in a public statement: “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 for ever.”

The cosmologist, mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and author of books including A Brief History of Time passed away at his Cambridge home. When the renowned theoretical physicist was first diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1963 aged 21, he was only given a few years to live. 

Defying his diagnosis, Hawking had a life well lived. Alongside fellow scientist Roger Penrose, the pair crafted the theory that space began with the Big Bang and ends with black holes in 1970. In 1974, Hawking worked on quantum theory, coming to the conclusion that black holes radiated heat, then later evaporated – it was a much debated theory across decades. A Brief History of Time, released in 1988, was a hugely popular, record-breaking book.

He held the post of Cambridge university’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a prestigious position once held by Sir Isaac Newton. Hawking obtained 12 honorary degrees, and despite British citizenship, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United State’s highest civilian honour in 2009.

Hawking has also been hailed for his wit as well as his world-spinning wisdom. In the biography Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind, it’s said: “One of Hawking’s regrets in life was not having an opportunity to run over Maragret Thatcher’s toes.” The scientists also made light-hearted cameos in both The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory, and once caused controvery when he visited a strip club. He was also radical in his political and social thinking: rubbishing religion and writing of the Tories failing the NHS. He was also one of 100 scientists who signed a letter criticising Donald Trump and his views on climate change and the Paris Accord. 

Prominent figures across science and culture have paid tribute to Hawking. 

“A star just went out in the cosmos,” Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist and theoretical physicist, wrote on Twitter. “We have lost an amazing human being.”