English physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking dead at 76

Eloise Marshall
March 14, 2018

In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations - tiny variations in the distribution of matter - might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today", said his children Lucy, Robert, and Tim in a statement.

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world", the family said. We will miss him forever.

Born in the year 1942, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963, leaving him wheelchair-bound and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesizer. But he continued his theoretical work and was outspoken on many things over much of his life.

His 1988 book "A Brief History of Time" sought to explain to non-scientists the fundamental theories of the universe and it became an worldwide bestseller, bringing him global acclaim. Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, wrote on Twitter: "His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake".

Others to pay tribute include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.

A sign of his popularity came in October when Cambridge put Hawking's 1966 thesis online for the first time, and demand for the document was so high the university's website crashed.

There have been reactions too from the world of Astronomy in Australia. The professor was physically located at Cambridge University in England.

Astronomer and popular science blogger Phil Plait highlighted Hawking's scientific breakthroughs in a series of tweets. Black holes were not truly black.

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His writings were inspirational to many scientists and enriched the lives of millions with the latest science and cosmic perspectives.

Through it all, of course, his illness made his achievements near-superhuman.

More recently he said artificial intelligence (AI) could contribute to the eradication of disease and poverty, while warning of its potential dangers. "I fell over and had great difficulty getting up", he told the audience.

In 2007, he became the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called "vomit comet", a modified plane specially created to simulate zero gravity. It was fantastic how widely read and discussed it was, particularly given its content (stuff that is usually portrayed as being really hard and/or boring).

But it was his ability to explain the most complex of ideas in terms that anyone could understand that brought fame far beyond the scientific community.

NASA tweeted a tribute video to Hawking, whose theories "unlocked a universe of possibilities" that the world continues to discover.

Solved the Black Hole paradox after arguing for nearly 30 years that black holes destroy everything that falls into it. Hawking authored "A Brief History of Time" in 1988, which sold more than 10 million copies. This is the true strength of his legacy.

Hawking, who had travelled to China previously, even visiting the Great Wall in 2002, posted on Weibo about black holes and other phenomena, and wrote in one message that being on China's leading social media platform was "a source of great inspiration". His research tackled the biggest of big questions - the nature of time, space and the universe we live in.

"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."
It was always great to see a world-class scientist just having fun.

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