Professor ‘funniest man’ actor ever met
RENOWNED British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.
He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of today, his family said.
Professor Hawking, one of the world’s finest scientific minds, was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22 and was given just a few years to live.
He eventually became confined to a wheelchair and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication.
Despite that, he continued to travel the world giving lectures and writing scientific papers about the basic laws that govern the universe.
Professor Hawking explained the Big Bang and black holes in his best-selling book A Brief History Of Time.
In a statement, his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: “We are deeply saddened 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 humour 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 University of Cambridge said Professor Hawking was “an inspiration to millions” and his work will leave “an indelible legacy”.
He arrived at the university in 1962 as a PHD student, and rose through the ranks to become the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton, in 1979.
Nasa remembered the professor as a “renowned physicist and ambassador of science”, while inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-lee, tweeted: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit.”
British astronaut Tim Peake said he “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.
Professor Hawking was born in Oxford on January 8 1942, the eldest of four children.
His rise to fame and relationship with his first wife Jane was dramatised in a 2014 film, The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne put in an Bafta and Oscar-winning performance as the physicist battling with illness.
Redmayne said in a statement: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
“My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”
The professor was a vocal champion of the NHS and until his final months sparred with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He recently said he would not have had such a long life without the NHS.
The University of Cambridge will open a book of condolence.
Professor Hawking and (inset) with actor Eddie Redmayne and his Bafta.