Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died aged 76, his family has announced.
Professor Hawking passed away peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning, according to a statement released by his family.
“His family have kindly requested that they be given the time and privacy to mourn his passing, but they would like to thank everyone who has been by Professor Hawking’s side – and supported him – throughout his life,” the statement said.
His children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in the statement that they were deeply saddened by his passing.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” they said.
“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t a home to the people you love.’”
Professor Hawking began his scientific career in 1959, earning a place at Oxford University to read natural science, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge.
However, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 22, a rare form of motor neurone disease that attacks the nerves controlling voluntary movement.
The condition confined him to a wheelchair and left him mostly unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.
However, he defied predictions from doctors who gave him only a few years to live.
The Briton was known for his work on relativity and the universe.
He was the first to introduce a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics.
“My goal is simple,” he once said.
“It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
Within his interest in science was also an interest in black holes.
He discovered that they leak energy and fade to nothing. It would later become known as the Hawking radiation.
He also demonstrated through his work with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity inferred that space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and ended in black holes.
Professor Hawking went on to write several books on science including “A Brief History of Time.”
He gained notoriety outside of academics, appearing in several TV shows including The Simpsons, Red Dwarf and The Big Bang Theory.
Scientists, researchers, innovators and business people have paid tribute to Professor Hawking.
Inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee was one of the first to thank him for his contribution to the world.
“We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit,” he said.
“Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said Professor Hawking’s passion for science was an inspiration.
“Stephen Hawking’s integrity and scientific dedication placed him above pure brilliance,” he said.
Mt Stromlo Observatory research fellow and outreach manager at the Australian National University Dr Brad Tucker said Professor Hawking inspired researchers to push themselves towards understanding the unknown.
“He leaves having inspired many of us and having helped us to tackle the big questions that humans have asked for centuries,” he said in a statement.
Professor Hawking is survived by his three children.