Hawk­ing dead at 76

The­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist, au­thor on time, space, lived 50 years with ALS.


LON­DON — Stephen Hawk­ing, the Bri­tish physi­cist who brought science to a mass au­di­ence even though his body was par­a­lyzed by dis­ease, has died. He was 76.

Hawk­ing died peace­fully at his home in Cam­bridge, Eng­land, early to­day, a spokesman for his fam­ily said in an emailed state­ment.

“He was a great sci­en­tist and an ex­tra­or­di­nary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” his chil­dren Lucy, Robert and Tim said in the state­ment. “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 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 in­ter­na­tional best­seller, mak­ing him one of science’s big­gest celebri­ties since Al­bert Ein­stein.

Hawk­ing was di­ag­nosed at age 21 with amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis — ALS, com­monly called Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease — then stunned doc­tors by liv­ing with the nor­mally fa­tal ill­ness for more than 50 years. He was con­fined to an elec­tric wheel­chair for much of his adult life.

He com­mu­ni­cated his ideas through an Amer­i­can-ac­cented speech syn­the­sizer af­ter a life­sav­ing tra­cheotomy in 1985 took away his abil­ity to speak.

But he con­tin­ued his sci­en­tific work, ap­peared on tele­vi­sion and mar­ried — twice. Hawk­ing mar­ried his first wife, Jane Wilde, in 1965. The cou­ple sep­a­rated in 1991, and he mar­ried his nurse, Elaine Ma­son, four years later. They di­vorced in 2007.

“To my col­leagues, I’m just an­other physi­cist, but to the wider pub­lic, I be­came pos­si­bly the best-known sci­en­tist in the world,” Hawk­ing wrote in his 2013 me­moir My Brief His­tory. “This is partly be­cause sci­en­tists, apart from Ein­stein, are not widely known rock stars, and partly be­cause I fit the stereo­type of a dis­abled ge­nius.”

For 30 years, Hawk­ing was Cam­bridge’s Lu­casian pro­fes­sor of math­e­mat­ics, a chair

Renowned physi­cist Stephen Hawk­ing re­de­fined cos­mol­ogy by propos­ing that black holes emit ra­di­a­tion and later evap­o­rate. once held by Isaac New­ton. In that post, Hawk­ing re­de­fined cos­mol­ogy by propos­ing that black holes emit ra­di­a­tion and later evap­o­rate. He also showed that the uni­verse had a be­gin­ning by de­scrib­ing how Ein­stein’s the­ory of gen­eral rel­a­tiv­ity even­tu­ally breaks down when time and space are traced back to the Big Bang about 13.7 bil­lion years ago.

Hawk­ing was also in­volved in the search for the great goal of physics — a “uni­fied the­ory” to re­solve the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween gen­eral rel­a­tiv­ity and quan­tum me­chan­ics.

“Stephen’s re­mark­able com­bi­na­tion of bold­ness, vi­sion, in­sight and courage have en­abled him to pro­duce ideas that have trans­formed our un­der­stand­ing of space and time, black holes and the ori­gin of the uni­verse,” James Har­tle, pro­fes­sor of physics at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara, said in 2002.

Hawk­ing never won a No­bel Prize in Physics be­cause his the­o­ries re­quired ob­ser­va­tional data. The No­bel Foun­da­tion ex­cludes posthu­mous nom­i­nees.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama awarded Hawk­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom in 2009, the year of his re­tire­ment.

Hawk­ing’s other pop­u­lar books in­cluded The Uni­verse in a Nut­shell (2001), On the Shoul­ders of Gi­ants (2002), A Briefer His­tory of Time (2005) and The Grand De­sign (2010).

In 2015, Ed­die Red­mayne won an Os­car for his por­trayal of Hawk­ing in The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing, a film about the sci­en­tist’s life.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by David Henry of Bloomberg News; and by Robert Barr of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

AP file photo

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