Stephen Hawking, the legendary theoretical physicist and author of “A Brief History of Time,” has died at age 76.
A family spokesman confirmed the news to the BBC.
Hawking was one of the most notable and well-known scientists of the past century, responsible for numerous advances in the fields of cosmology and physics.
Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement to the Guardian in the early hours of Wednesday morning:
“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. His courage and persistence with 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.”
The 2014 Oscar-nominated film “The Theory of Everything,” starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, was based on the early years of Hawking’s life. Redmayne won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal.
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963, when he was 21 years old and was given a life expectancy of two more years. His disease progressed more slowly than originally thought, however, and he went on to continue pursuing research.
In 1970, Stephen Hawking had his first major scientific breakthrough, when he and Roger Penrose extended the mathematics of black holes to the entire universe and showed that a singularity was the origin of the big bang. This discovery kicked off a series of further innovations, including the proposal that black holes radiate heat.
Hawking was elected to the Royal Society in 1974 at the young age of 32. He became the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge five years later, a post which had formerly been held by Isaac Newton and Charles Babbage and is one of the most prestigious posts in Britain. Hawking remained in the position for 30 years, then became director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology.
“A Brief History of Time,” Hawking’s book describing cosmology for laypeople, was published in 1988 and turned him into an international household name. The book stayed on the Sunday Times’ best seller list for an unprecedented 237 weeks.
Hawking married his first wife Jane in 1965, with whom he had three children and who chronicled their marriage, which eventually broke down in 1991, in her book “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.” After their divorce, he married Elaine Mason, one of the nurses who was hired to provide round-the-clock care. Their marriage lasted 11 years.
Stephen Hawking was known for his contentiousness and outspoken nature, and courted controversy many times in his life, though he often meant his cracks in good humor. He was known for making scientific bets, many of which he lost.
In 2012, his 70th birthday was celebrated in Cambridge, and though he was not able to attend due to illness, he released a video message entitled “A Brief History of Mine.” In it, he called for the continued exploration of space “for the future of humanity.” Without spreading out into space, humans would not “survive another thousand years,” he said.