CAMBRIDGE, UK (CelebrityAccess) — Professor Stephen Hawking, the celebrated theoretical physicist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, died on March 14th. He was 76.
According to the New York Times, Dr. Hawking’s family said that he died peacefully at his home in Cambridge.
During his life, Dr. Hawking helped to revolutionize our understanding of cosmology, the theoretical understanding of the origins of the universe and helped to refine Albert Einstein’s foundational theory of general relativity.
His scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems, and the theoretical prediction from a paper published in Nature in 1974 that black holes emit radiation, is now regarded as one of the first steps towards connecting gravity and quantum mechanics – the long sought-after unified theory of physics.
Dr. Hawking also helped to bring an understanding of the complex subject of cosmology to the common parlance with the publication of numerous books on science for the layman. His 1988 book “A Brief History of the Universe”, written for readers with no prior knowledge of scientific theories, became a runaway hit, appearing on the London Sunday Times bestseller list for more than five years and selling more than 10 million copies in two decades.
He would go on to write numerous other books, including additional popular science tomes, as well as autobiographies and even a series of children’s fiction co-written with his daughter Lucy.
A native of Oxford, Dr. Hawking pursued his undergraduate degree at University College, Oxford, and his graduate and post-graduate studies at Cambridge. While attending Cambridge, he was diagnosed with a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neuron disease in 1963, with doctors at the time giving him just two years to live.
However, Dr. Hawking persevered and though his malady eventually left him bound to a wheelchair and able to flex just a finger and make voluntary eye movements, he far outlasted his physician’s prognosis.
Despite his disability, Dr. Hawking remained an active public figure and made headlines for taking a hot air balloon ride on his 60th birthday and taking a ride on Richard Branson’s specially modified Boeing 727 which is designed to simulate the weightlessness of Zero-gravity.
“I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit,” Dr. Hawking told the New York Times in 2007.
Dr. Hawking received numerous awards and honors over his lifetime, including election as a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society.
Dr. Hawking was married twice, first to Jane Wilde, but the couple separated in 1990. In 1995, he married Elaine Mason, a nurse who had provided care for him, but the couple quietly divorced in 2006.
His survivors include his children, Robert, Lucy and Tim, and three grandchildren.