World-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking is no more. The iconic scientist passed away peacefully at his Cambridge home early on Wednesday, his grieving family has confirmed. He was 76.
“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,” his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement.
“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,” they added.
The British scientist was twenty-one when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating disease that put him in the wheelchair for life. He was studying cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time.
Despite his condition, the legendary man of science was untiring in his pursuit of knowledge, and in unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. Among the several books he authored, he will be best remembered for “A Brief History of Time,” which went on to become a bestseller.
World leaders, scientists, astronauts and celebrities have all paid glowing tributes to the great man, known and respected the world over for his devotion to science and for his relentless work on cosmology, black holes, relativity, the big bang, quantum mechanics, and much more – always maintaining his tremendous sense of humor.
“Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world,” Prof Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.
“Hawking was an inspiration to millions. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions,” he added.
“What was unique about him was that he had a marvelous ability to see through all the clutter in physics and to see what the central points are,” said Prof James Hartle on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. Hartle and Hawking had worked together to develop the Hartle-Hawking wave function.
“His whole story is one of triumph over adversity and who inspired a lot of people including me,” Hartle added.
Praising him for his courage, sense of humor, and his “determination to get the most from life,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Professor Hawking was “a brilliant and extraordinary mind – one of the great scientists of his generation. His legacy will not be forgotten.”
Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind – one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) March 14, 2018
British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Member of Parliament for South West Surrey, Jeremy Hunt – who was forever at odds with the professor in matters funding and reforms to the NHS – said that Hawking was a “defining force in the world of science” and that his loss would reverberate across the world.
He said that their different points of view and disagreements can’t change the fact that he was “one of our greatest ever thinkers,” for which he considered the professor a personal hero, going on to say that “he inspired with his courage as well as his words.”
Stephen Hawking was a defining force in the world of science whose loss will be felt in every corner of the globe. I was sad that we didn’t agree on everything, but he was still a hero to me as one of our greatest ever thinkers – he inspired with his courage as well as his words.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) March 14, 2018
Tim Peake, an astronaut at the European Space Agency (ESA) who spent six months in space as recently as 2016, said that Hawking “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe. His personality and genius will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family.”
He inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe. His personality and genius will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family.
BBC News – Stephen Hawking dies aged 76 https://t.co/YOuoA6rfzP
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) March 14, 2018
Astrophysicist Neil Tyson wrote that Hawkings passing may have left an “intellectual vacuum” but it wasn’t’ really void.
“Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018,” he said.
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
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, credited the genius scientist with “breathtaking courage” for attempting to face life’s challenges. He said that the professor had a “burning passion to protect our National Health Service,” and that he would be “greatly missed.”
Stephen Hawking inspired the world with his determination to explain the mysteries of the cosmos. But he also showed breathtaking courage to overcome life's adversities and a burning passion to protect our National Health Service. He will be greatly missed.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) March 14, 2018
NASA called him “an ambassador of science” whose “theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring.”
Repeating the eminent scientist’s words to astronauts aboard the ISS in 2014, NASA said, “May you keep flying like superman in microgravity.”
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
Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, praised Hawking for his “grit and tenacity” and said that his “demise was anguishing.”
Professor Stephen Hawking was an outstanding scientist and academic. His grit and tenacity inspired people all over the world. His demise is anguishing. Professor Hawking’s pioneering work made our world a better place. May his soul rest in peace.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 14, 2018
Remembering the late professor’s often-spoken-about sense of humor, veteran US television host Larry King said that when he “once asked Stephen Hawking in an interview what puzzles him the most in all the universe. “Women,” he answered. He will be missed. R.I.P.
I once asked Stephen Hawking in an interview what puzzles him the most in all the universe. "Women," he answered. He will be missed. R.I.P.
— Larry King (@kingsthings) March 14, 2018
The shadow chancellor John McDonnell also praised the Hawking sense of humor, saying that “it’s sad to lose him.”
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 14, 2018
A quick look at Stephen Hawking’s life
Date and Place of Birth: January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England.
Early Education: Joined Oxford University in 1959 to study natural science, before doing his Ph.D. at Cambridge
Illness: He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1963.
In 1974, he outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation”
In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Cambridge – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton
His best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, was published in 1988 and has since sold more than 10 million copies.
Ten years after he was offered knighthood by the British Government, he revealed that he had turned down the honor over because of the government’s indifference toward funding for science.
The 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was based on Hawking’s life. Eddie Redmayne had the honor of playing the legendary character in the movie.