Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning at his home in Cambridge, England.

The British scientist famously suffered from a rare form of motor neurone disease and, at the young age of 22, was told that he had just a few years to live. Despite battling on for a further half century, the scientist was left wheelchair-bound and mostly unable to speak without the use of a voice synthesizer - but that didn't stop him from becoming one of the most pioneering thinkers to have ever lived.

In 1988, Hawking published his most famous work, A Brief History of Time, which has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

Credit: Getty

Hawking's three children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim, said in a statement this morning:

"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 humor 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 for ever."

Tributes have also come pouring in on Twitter from fellow scientists and readers of his work.

As well as making an impact on the scientific community, Hawking was also known to be a strongly political man, and once turned down a knighthood because he was unhappy with the underfunding of scientific education in the UK.

He was also outspoken on the topic of artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons, and argued that humanity must continue to explore and eventually colonize space if we want to survive as a species.

The scientist also claimed to have disproved the existence of time-travelers when, in a somewhat comical way, he hosted a party for them - but only announced that it was happening a day later.

Hawking was a cultural icon during his time, and famously appeared in several films and television shows. Most recently, he was the subject of the movie, The Theory of Everything, in which he was portrayed by Eddie Redmayne.

"We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet," the actor said following his passing. "My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family."

Credit: Getty

When he was first diagnosed with motor neurone disease, the physicist once said:

"Although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before. I began to make progress with my research. My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

And, given the progress he made and the reputation he has - and will always have - it seems as if Hawking certainly achieved that goal as much as he possibly could.

Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.