Famed theoretical physicist dies at 76

Famed theoretical physicist dies at 76

World-renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, who sought to understand a range of cosmic topics from the beginning of the universe to the intricacies of black holes, died Wednesday at the age of 76. He passed away during the early hours of Wednesday at his home in Cambridge.

As a teenager he had enjoyed horse-riding and rowing but while at Cambridge he was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease which was to leave him nearly completely paralysed.

His death was marked by statements from scientists around the world. But it's not empty. "Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure", fellow scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted.

The best-known theoretical physicist of his time, Hawking wrote so lucidly of the mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, "A Brief History of Time", became an global best seller, making him one of science's biggest celebrities since Albert Einstein. "Stephen excelled at both".

Hawking also recognised the enormous potential of the universe to be teeming with life and the advances in technology that might permit its detection in the near future.

The British physicist was born in Oxford in 1942. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21, while a doctoral student in cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Hawking first realized that something was wrong when he went ice skating with his mother one day, he recalled in a speech on his 75th birthday celebration a year ago.

It was even rumoured that one of the politically outspoken scientist's great regrets was that he never got a chance to run over the toes of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher. "At first I became depressed".

Then, grinning widely, he added, "I seem to manage to do anything that I really want".

Hawking used a speech synthesizer that allowed him to speak in a computerized voice with an American accent. Hawking's most recent high-profile trip to Seattle came in 2012.

Considered by many to be the world's greatest living scientist, Hawking was also a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician and author of numerous books including the landmark "A Brief History of Time", which has sold more than 10 million copies.

Hawking became a hero to math and science geeks and pop culture figure, guest-starring as himself on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Simpsons". "Black holes are too long-lived to be observed today in their death throes".

Professor Stephen Hawking appeared via hologram to address an audience at the Sydney Opera House in April 2015.

My favourite was his insight into evaporating black holes, which combined general relativity and quantum mechanics.

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