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14th Mar 2018

Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

Oli Dugmore

A heavyweight of human thought. RIP.

Celebrated theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has died, aged 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

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.”

Hawking suffered from a rare early-onset, slow progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He was diagnosed aged just 22 and was originally given a life expectancy of two years.

The disease rendered him completely paralysed and, in his final years, Hawking communicated using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device.

He authored A Brief History of Time, which appeared on the Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. It eventually sold more than 10 million copies in 40 languages.

His black hole thermal radiation discovery in 1974 is considered one of the most important physics results of the past century.

When Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis was made freely available to the general public, for the first time, online in 2017 the University of Cambridge’s online repository crashed.

In a career spanning half a century, the cosmologist published more than 150 scientific papers and a dozen books.

In 1974, Hawking radically proposed that black holes actually emit energy, bleeding what would later be called “Hawking radiation.” His discovery altered the manner in which scientists assess the universe – Hawking had reconciled key aspect of classical and quantum physics.

The physicist proposed a fresh analysis of the beginning of time and space in 1983, in collaboration with James Hartle. They argued the universe has no physical boundaries and travelling its length would be a circular journey comparable to circumnavigating the globe – and posited the same for time.

In 2014 his life was adapted into a biopic, titled The Theory of Everything.

On meeting Hawking, the film’s director, James Marsh, said: “It’s like meeting the Queen, or meeting God.

“You don’t quite know what you should be saying, or how you should be saying it, or what kind of answer you need to wait for.”

He is survived by his three children Lucy, Timothy and Robert.