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Stephen Hawking, one of the most influential physicists of the twentieth century and perhaps the most celebrated icon of contemporary science, has died at the age of 76.

The University of Cambridge confirmed that the physicist died in the early hours of 14 March at his home in Cambridge, England.when did stephen hawking die

Since his early twenties, Hawking had lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease in which motor neurons die, leaving the brain incapable of controlling muscles. Hawking’s health had been reportedly deteriorating; just over a year ago, he was hospitalized during a trip to Rome.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesizer.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said: “We have 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.”

They 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.”

Factfile: Stephen Hawking

  • Born 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England
  • Earned place at Oxford University to read natural science in 1959, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge
  • By 1963, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live
  • Outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation” in 1974
  • In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton
  • Published his book A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has sold more than 10 million copies
  • In the late 1990s, he was reportedly offered a knighthood, but 10 years later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, said: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking,” he said.

Hawking married his college sweetheart, Jane Wilde, in 1965, two years after his diagnosis. She first set eyes on him in 1962, lolloping down the street in St Albans, his face down, covered by an unruly mass of brown hair. A friend warned her she was marrying into “a mad, mad family”. With all the innocence of her 21 years, she trusted that Stephen would cherish her, she wrote in her 2013 book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.

In 1985, during a trip to Cern, Hawking was taken to hospital with an infection. He was so ill that doctors asked Jane if they should withdraw life support. She refused, and Hawking was flown back to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for a life-saving tracheotomy. The operation saved his life but destroyed his voice. The couple had three children, but the marriage broke down in 1991. Hawking’s progressive condition, his demands on Jane, and his refusal to discuss his illness were destructive forces the relationship could not endure, she said. Jane wrote of him being “a child possessed of a massive and fractious ego,” and how husband and wife became “master” and “slave”.

THE PUBLIC FACE OF SCIENCE

In many ways, Stephen Hawking was the inheritor of Albert Einstein’s mantle of the genius-as-celebrity.

His most well known work is the best seller A Brief History of Time which has sold more than 9 million copies — although it’s no easy read. In fact, it’s been called “the least-read best-seller ever”.

With Einstein, most people are familiar with e = mc2, but they don’t know what it means. With Hawking, his work was too complicated for most people, but they understood that what he was trying to figure out was basic, even primal.

“He was asking and trying to address the very biggest questions we were trying to ask: the birth of the universe, black holes, the direction of time,” said University of Chicago cosmologist Michael Turner.

“I think that caught people’s attention.”

And he did so in an impish way, showing humanity despite being confined to a wheelchair with the degenerative nerve disorder, ALS.

“The first thing that catches you is the debilitating disease and his wheelchair,” Turner said. But his mind and the “joy that he took in science” dominated.

While the public may not have understood what he said, they got his quest for big ideas.

Andy Fabian, an astronomer at Hawking’s University of Cambridge and president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said Hawking would start his layman’s lectures on black holes with the joke: “I assume you all have read A Brief History of Time and understood it.”

It always got a big laugh, he recalled.

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