One of the greatest minds of the modern age, and one of the most respected and admired individuals of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking, died this morning aged 76.
A statement released on behalf of the family said:
“It is with great sadness we announce the death of Professor Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA at the age of 76.
Professor Hawking died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of the morning.
His family have kindly requested that they be given the time and privacy to mourn his passing, but they would like to thank everyone who has been by Professor Hawking’s side – and supported him – throughout his life.
His children Lucy, Robert and Tim have issued the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened that 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 has very kindly offered to open a book of condolence at Gonville and Caius College for anyone who would like to pay tribute to the life and work of Professor Hawking.”
Born in Oxford on January 8th 1942, Hawking was diagnosed with the rare form of motor neurone disease known as ALS at the age of 21 while studying for a PhD Cambridge, and was told he had a life expectancy of around four years.
Confined to a wheelchair before he turned 30, in 1986, aged 44 and after suffering with pneumonia, he had his voice removed and from then on, spoke using a computer synthesiser fitted to the arm of his wheelchair. Despite his condition, Hawking refused to let his illness impact his yearning for learning and educating others and travelled the world giving lectures and writing scientific papers about the basic laws that govern the universe. He also explained the Big Bang and black holes in his best-selling book A Brief History Of Time.
Throughout his life, Hawking received numerous awards and titles, including a CBE in 1982, and he was made a Companion of Honour in 1989, then in 2009, he was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also the recipient of the Albert Einstein Award and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and was a Fellow of The Royal Society and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Among those to pay tribute to Hawking was Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge who said:
“Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed.”
— Cambridge University (@Cambridge_Uni) March 14, 2018
Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking in the 2014 film The Theory Of Everything, said:
“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.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Hawking in the BBC TV film of the same name, released the following lengthy statement:
“I was so sad to hear that Stephen has died. I send my heartfelt love and condolences to all his family and colleagues. I feel so lucky to have known such a truly great man who’s profundity was found both in his work and the communication of that work. Both in person and in books. He virtually created the publishing genre of popular science. A heroic feat to bring the wondrous complexities of the universe to all outside of specialists in this field. But truly courageous when considering it was achieved by a man who lived a life trapped in his body from the age of 21 when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. His support of the sciences, art, education and the NHS and charities such as the MND foundation will also live on as will his wickedly funny sense of humor. I will miss our margaritas but will raise one to the stars to celebrate your life and the light of understanding you shone so brightly on them for the rest of us. You were and are a true inspiration for me and for millions around the world. Thank you.”
Below are just a selection of the tributes to Hawking from friends, fellow scientists and fans alike.
Sad to hear about Stephen Hawking. What a remarkable life. His contributions to science will be used as long as there are scientists, and there are many more scientists because of him. He spoke about the value and fragility of human life and civilisation and greatly enhanced both
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) March 14, 2018
I had the privilege of meeting Stephen Hawking as an undergrad at Caltech. Other than his genius, I will always remember how funny he was and how his outlook on life was never diminished by his physical handicaps. He will be missed. #RIPStephenHawking
— Tom the Intern (@TomTheIntern) March 14, 2018
He inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe. His personality and genius will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family.
BBC News – Stephen Hawking dies aged 76 https://t.co/YOuoA6rfzP
— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) March 14, 2018
Rest in Peace Stephen Hawking, your incredible knowledge and perseverance changed the world and inspired millions
— Alice 🌹 (@BooksAfterTea) March 14, 2018
Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. 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 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5
— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018
“We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
RIP Stephen Hawking. Today the world mourns the loss of a monumental genius and visionary. What an honour it was to have lived at the same time as you.
— karmina ☾ (@karmantou) March 14, 2018
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. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
The cast of hit US show The Big Bang Theory, on which Hawking appeared in person and by voice on several occasions, posted this photo of him with the cast. Actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy on the show,, also posted her own message.
— The Big Bang Theory (@bigbangtheory) March 14, 2018
As we near Pi day (3.14) I join the global community in mourning the loss of the greatest physicist of our era. #StephenHawking is free from the physical constraints of this earthly condition we all exist in and he is soaring above us now marveling at it all. pic.twitter.com/o3V0TZrppj
— Mayim Bialik (@missmayim) March 14, 2018
Rest in peace Stephen Hawking. You were such an inspirational person and you definitely won’t be forgotten. 🙏🏼
— Samantha Hedley (@Sam_Hedley) March 14, 2018
We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. https://t.co/ectv7r4UIm
— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 14, 2018
— Depression Army™ (@depressionarmy) March 14, 2018
‘Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist…’ thank u Stephen Hawking, for making the world we know & we don’t know, a place to look positively at.
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) March 14, 2018
Rest in peace Sir. Stephen Hawking. I'm inlove with the universe because of you.
— Kevin (@acostakevinken1) March 14, 2018
Stephen Hawking's historic breakthroughs in science advanced humanity’s understanding of the universe even as the extraordinarily courageous life he led inspired us all. He will be greatly missed and will never be forgotten.
— Al Gore (@algore) March 14, 2018
A momment of silence for one of the greatest minds of the 21st century, Thank you Professor Stephen Hawking
— Kevin (@KevinNhil) March 14, 2018
Rest in Peace Stephen Hawking. One of the most brilliant minds to be on this earth.
— Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) March 14, 2018
If you are lucky enough to find love, remember that it's there and don't throw it away.
RIP Stephen Hawking – to live at the same time you did was something really incredible.
— Sammy 💬 (@Little_Fickle) March 14, 2018
Our world has lost a shining light. Stephen Hawking defied expectation. Blessed with a brilliant mind and uncommon grace, he opened so many minds to the wonders of our universe. Courageous and unbowed by adversity, he believed deeply in the power reason. May he rest in peace.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) March 14, 2018
British Prime Minister Theresa May also paid tribute, saying:
“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.”
Header photo credit: Dave J. Hogan (Getty Images)