British scientist Stephen Hawking dead at age 76

Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking dies at age 76

LONDON: Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, whose mental genius and physical disability made him a household name and inspiration across the globe, has died at age 76, his family said yesterday.

Propelled to superstardom by his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time", which became an unlikely worldwide bestseller, Prof Hawking dedicated his life to unlocking the secrets of the Universe.

His genius and wit won over fans from far beyond the rarified world of astrophysics, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

Prof Hawking died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of yesterday morning.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," Prof Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Britain's Press Association news agency.

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

Prof Hawking defied predictions he would only live for a few years after developing a form of motor neurone disease in his early 20s.

The illness gradually robbed him of mobility, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser.


"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world," his family said.

"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."

Born on January 8, 1942 - 300 years to the day after the death of the father of modern science, Galileo Galilei - Stephen William Hawking became one of the world's most well-regarded scientists and entered the pantheon of science titans.

His death was announced on the 139th anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein.

Inside the shell of his increasingly useless body was a razor-sharp mind, with an enduring fascination with the mysteries of black holes.

His work focused on bringing together relativity - the nature of space and time - and quantum theory - how the smallest particles behave - to explain the creation of the Universe and how it is governed.

"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."

But he was also a beloved figure in popular culture, with cameos in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Simpsons", while his voice appeared in Pink Floyd songs.

Tributes began pouring in from scientists around the world, lauding him as an inspiration.

American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted his condolences, with a characteristically cosmological reference.

"His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure," the scientist said. - AFP