World famous British scientist Stephen Hawking, modern cosmology’s brightest star known for his ground-breaking work with black holes and relativity, died today at his home in Cambridge aged 76. Hawking was probably the best-known scientist in the world. He was a theoretical physicist whose early work on black holes transformed how scientists think about the nature of the universe.
But his fame wasn’t just a result of his research. Hawking, who suffered from a debilitating neurological disease that made it impossible for him to move his limbs or speak, was also a popular public figure and best-selling author.
In a statement, Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said “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,” the statement said. 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 for ever.”
Here are few you need to know about Stephen Hawking:
Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after which he was given two years to live. The disease left Hawking wheelchair-bound and paralysed. He was able to move only a few fingers on one hand and was completely dependent on others or on technology for virtually everything — bathing, dressing, eating, even speech.
But, he went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein.
His first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the entire universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.
Hawking’s seminal contributions continued through the 1980s. The theory of cosmic inflation holds that the fledgling universe went through a period of terrific expansion.
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.
He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009, a position previously held by Isaac Newton in 1663.
Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
His book, ‘A Brief History of Time’ rocketed him to stardom. Published for the first time in 1988, the title made the Guinness Book of Records after it stayed on the Sunday Times bestsellers list for an unprecedented 237 weeks. It sold 10 million copies and was translated into 40 different languages.
Hawking won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Fundamental Physics Prize. The Nobel Prize, however, eluded him.
The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar.
In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
(Inputs from Agencies)