Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76 - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Stephen Hawking poses for photographers upon arrival for the Interstellar Live show at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on March 30, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP) Stephen Hawking poses for photographers upon arrival for the Interstellar Live show at the Royal Albert Hall in central London on March 30, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

(RNN) - Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking died Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England, according to a spokesperson for the family.

"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," said his children in a statement.

Hawking studied the laws of time and space, becoming an international celebrity in the process.

Hawking was the author of several best-sellers, including "A Brief History of Time," "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays," "The Universe in a Nutshell," "The Grand Design" and "My Brief History."

Hawking's scholarly pursuits dealt with time - whether it has a beginning and end, what happens in a black hole and whether time warps are possible.

Notable people paid tribute to Hawking on Twitter on Wednesday.

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

Former President Barack Obama tweeted a photo with Hawking and said simply, "Have fun out there among the stars."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said, "Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten."

NASA also saluted him, saying "His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014."

When Cambridge University made his doctoral thesis "Properties of Expanding Universes" available to the public in Oct. 2017, "unprecedented interest" in the paper crashed the library's website.

While studying time, he has survived the ravages of an incurable disease. He was diagnosed with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, at age 21.

Though he was given only two years to live after his diagnosis, he lived more than 50 years.

The motor neuron disease, formerly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, causes nerve cells to break down and die, according to Mayo Clinic.

Hawking's early struggles with scholarship, love and a devastating diagnosis were chronicled in the award-winning 2014 biopic, "The Theory of Everything." Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Hawking.

Because of ALS, Hawking was bound to wheelchair. After a tracheostomy in 1985, Hawking lost the ability to speak. He relied on an elaborate computer system to communicate, which he accessed with a switch he moved with his cheek. He also required constant care.

Hawking faced a number of health challenges and was described as "on the cusp of death" in April 2009, according to the Guardian. He had to cancel high-profile lectures because of his bad health.

Besides books, scholarships and lectures, Hawking made guest appearances in live action and cartoon TV shows such as "The Simpsons," "Futurama," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Hawking was born on Jan. 8, 1942, 300 years after the death of Galileo, his website said. Though his parents were from north London, he was born in Oxford because his family had to evacuate due to the German Blitz.

Hawking first attended University College, Oxford. Though he wanted to study mathematics, he pursued physics instead because mathematics wasn't offered at Oxford.

Hawking gained a Ph.D. in cosmology at Cambridge University and studied as a fellow at Gonville and Caius College.

He studied at Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy before coming to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1979 as a Lucasian Professor, a title once held by Isaac Newton, until 2009.

Hawking led the general relativity group at the department and was principal investigator of the COSMOS National Cosmology Supercomputer.

He remained active at Cambridge as a Dennis Stantion Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics until his death.

Hawking married and divorced twice, first to Jane Wilde and then to his nurse, Elaine Mason. He had three children and three grandchildren.

In July 2015, Hawking funded a $100 million search for alien life beyond the solar system, scanning the universe for radio transmissions, according to the Guardian.

In recent years, he had expressed concern on a number of topics, including the future of the United Kingdom's National Health Service, the end of the world, specifically Earth, and artificial intelligence

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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