Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

Professor Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

But that's not the only major contribution or discovery that Hawking will be remembered for.

He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 21, a disease that eventually confined him to a wheelchair and took away this ability to speak, leaving Hawking to communicate through a voice synthesizer.

Hawking's doctors gave him almost two years to live but he defied the medical history and survived for decades. Despite being wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication, Hawking continued his research into theoretical physics. "I'll tweet more tomorrow when I have the measure of it, but what an immeasurable life he had".

But the disease progressed more slowly than expected.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on what turned out to be an auspicious date: January 8, 1942 - the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.

He was also the subject of a 2013 documentary, "Hawking", in which he reflected on his life: "Because every day could be my last, I have the desire to make the most of each and every minute". The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves.

A previous holder of the prestigious post was the 17th-century British scientist Isaac Newton.

His book A Brief History of Time became an unlikely best-seller although it is unclear how many people actually managed to get to the end of it.

His popularity brought him guest appearances in TV shows such as The Simpsons and the Big Bang Theory, but he was above all a true scientific genius. His life was dramatized in the 2014 movie, "The Theory of Everything." He was awarded CBE (1982), Companion of Honour (1989) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009).

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There are few scientists who reach as far into popular culture as Stephen Hawking did.

American astrophysisist Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote: "His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake". "But it's not empty".

"A star just went out in the cosmos", tweeted Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist.

"We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit".

Hawking first married Jane Wilde in 1965 and had three children.

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years", Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement.

Doctors predicted he would only live a few years, but he instead thrived, focusing on his work that included seeking to bridge the gap between Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that describes the motion of large objects and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics dealing with subatomic particles.

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world", the family said. "He once said, aIt would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love.' We will miss him for ever", the statement added.

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