Renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking, whose mental genius and physical disability made him an inspiration to many across the world has passed away age 76, his family said on Wednesday.
Hawking's 1988 book “A Brief History of Time”, which became an unlikely global bestseller, propelled him to stardom.
The physicist dedicated his life and time to unlocking the secrets of the Universe, earning comparisons with world's renowned scientists Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.
He died peacefully at his residence in the British University city of Cambridge in the dawn hours of Wednesday.
“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” professor Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Britain’s Press Association news agency.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”
Hawking defied predictions by medics that he would only survive for a few years after he developed a form of motor neurone condition in his early 20s. The disease affected his mobility, forcing him to use a wheelchair. It also left him almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.
“His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world,” his family 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 forever.”
His work focused on explaining the creation of the Universe and how it is governed.
“My goal is simple,” he once said. “It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
He became the youngest person to join Britain’s renowned scientific body, the Royal Society, at the age of 32.
He was, however, not new to controversies and one time dismissed the religious concept of life after death.
“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he said at the time.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he added.