Visionary Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

Visionary Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including "A Brief History of Time," which has sold more than 10 million copies, report CNN and the BBC.

At the age of 22 Prof. Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which is usually fatal within a few years.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak, except through a voice synthesizer.

In a statement, his 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."

They praised his "courage and persistence" and said his "brilliance and humour" 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 forever."

"A star just went out in the cosmos," Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, wrote on Twitter. "We have lost an amazing human being."

A book of condolence is due to be opened at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, where Prof Hawking was a fellow.

Prof. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics.

He also discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing -- a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation.

Through his work with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose he demonstrated that Einstein's general theory of relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.

The scientist gained popularity outside the academic world and appeared in several TV shows, including "The Simpsons," "Red Dwarf," and "The Big Bang Theory."

Image credit: Getty Images and CNN