Stephen Hawking, Famed Physicist, Dies at 76

Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at 76, according to his family.

The Cambridge University scientist was known for his groundbreaking work with black holes and relativity, and was the author of several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

stephen hawking
(Photo: HBO / Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)

According to the BBC, his children Lucy, Robert and Tim announced the news late Tuesday.

"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," the statement read.

The family praised his "courage and persistence" and said his "brilliance and humor" 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 forever," they added.

As a graduate student in 1963, The New York Times reports, Hawking learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He was given only a few years to live at the time.

The disease reduced his bodily control to only being able to flex a finger and voluntary eye movements, however his mental capacity was unharmed.

He went on to become his generation's leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes.

Hawking was born in Oxford on Jan. 8, 1942. His father, a research biologist, had moved with his mother from London to escape the German bombing. He grew up in London and St. Albans and, after gaining a first-class degree in physics from Oxford, went on to Cambridge for postgraduate research in cosmology.

In 1964, as he was preparing to marry his first wife, Jane, his doctors gave him no more than two or three years to live.

But the disease progressed more slowly than expected. The couple had three children, and in 1988 — although Hawking was by now only able to speak with a voice synthesiser following a tracheotomy — he had completed A Brief History of Time, a layman's guide to cosmology.

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It sold more than 10 million copies, although its author was aware that it was dubbed "the most popular book never read."

Arguably the most beloved scientist of our time, Hawking made appearances in several television shows, including Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Big Bang Theory. His life story was the subject of the 2014 film The Theory of Everything, starring Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne.