Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies at 76

Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies at 76

The physicist is best known for his best-selling 1988 classic "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes", which was meant to help people without a strong scientific background understand key questions of physics and human existence.

He appeared in a number of popular TV shows and lent his synthesised voice to various recordings.

Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while himself working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76. His father, a research biologist, had moved with his mother from London to escape German bombing.

He went on to become a researcher at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow at the Gonville and Caius College.

As a teenager he had enjoyed horse-riding and rowing but while at Cambridge he was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease which was to leave him nearly completely paralysed.

"I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many", he wrote on his website.

But the disease progressed more slowly than expected. Hawking said his thinking had been influenced by significant advancements in physics that had followed publication of "A Brief History of Time".

In 1974, Hawking proposed what is known as his most significant theory that black holes can emit sub-atomic particles. He was renowned for his extraordinary capacity to visualise scientific solutions without calculation or experiment. "People who annoyed him, it was said, found themselves a target". "Where is it going and will it have an end?"

Stephen Hawking attends exhibition

"We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit".

Pop culture fans should recognise Hawking from his guest spot (as his own hologram) in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Descent", or his appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama, and others.

A previous holder of the prestigious post was the 17th-century British scientist Isaac Newton.

He believed his illness brought some benefits; he said before he developed the disease he had been bored with life.

The combination of his best-selling book and his nearly total disability - for a while he could use a few fingers, later he could only tighten the muscles on his face - made him one of science's most recognizable faces. Hawking was later married for 11 years to Elaine Mason, one of his former nurses.

By 2000, Hawking was a frequent visitor to the emergency department of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, seeking treatment for a variety of injuries. No action was taken. "At first I became depressed". He said he did it to encourage interest in space travel.

"We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds".

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