Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76.
He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning, his family said.
Prof Hawking, one of the world’s finest scientific minds, was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease in 1964 at the age of 22 and was given just a few years to live.
Prof Hawking was born on January 8 1942 in Oxford, the eldest of four children, and went on to become one of the world’s most acclaimed cosmologists.
Prof Hawking arrived at the University of Cambridge in 1962 as a PhD student, and rose through the ranks to become the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton, in 1979.
His most famous scientific insight concerned the arcane physics of black holes. He discovered the phenomenon which has become known as Hawking radiation, where black holes leak energy and fade to nothing.
Nasa remembered Prof Hawking as a “renowned physicist and ambassador of science”, while inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”
British astronaut Tim Peake said Prof Hawking “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.