Professor Stephen Hawking dies at 76 and leaves an indelible legacy
Tributes are paid around the world to brilliant University of Cambridge physicist
He was one of the world’s most brilliant minds.
Professor Stephen Hawking, the University of Cambridge theoretical physicist, has died at his Cambridge home at the age of 76.
Famous worldwide for his extraordinary contributions to science, particularly the study of black holes, he had been given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21.
Family, friends and colleagues have paid tribute to him.
Prof Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement: “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 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 for ever.”
Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularisation of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed.”
Prof Hawking explored the basic laws that govern the universe. His discoveries included the revelation that black holes have a temperature and produce radiation, which is now known as Hawking radiation.
He sought to explain the mysteries of the cosmos to a wider audience through his books, including bestseller A Brief History of Time.
Biographical films were made about his life that also brought his achievements to a global audience, most notably The Theory of Everything.
Eddie Redmayne, who played him the Oscar-winning movie, said: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
“My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”
He was awarded the CBE in 1982, made a Companion of Honour in 1989 and was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
He won numerous awards, medals and prizes, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, the Albert Einstein Award, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Fundamental Physics Prize, and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Basic Sciences. He was a Fellow of The Royal Society, a Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Hawking, who came to Cambridge in 1962 as a PhD student, went on to become the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1979, a position once held by Isaac Newton.
He retired from the position in 2009 and was the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics until his death.
He was fellow of Gonville & Caius College for 52 years.
Prof Hawking was also a long-time member of the Labour Party.
The chair of Cambridge Labour, Maureen Donnelly, said: “Professor Hawking’s brilliant mind and remarkable life was an inspiration to millions all over the world and we were honoured to have him as a member of Cambridge Labour for the past 21 years. As well as unlocking the wonders of the cosmos for the ordinary person, he was also a passionate defender of the NHS. We send our sympathies to his family and will always remember his courage, humour and determination to get the most from his life.”
Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute, saying: “Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten.”
Motor neurone disease confined him to a wheelchair and he famously spoke through a computerised voice.
But it could not confine his scientific endeavour and his mind continued to scour the cosmos until his death.
A Brief History of Professor Stephen Hawking
• Born January 8, 1942 in Oxford - his father was a research biologist who moved with his mother from London to escape German bombing.
• Grew up in London and St Albans
• Read natural science at Oxford University from 1959, and graduates with a First
• He came to Cambridge in 1962 and studied for his PhD in cosmology
• Diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 and given two years to live
• In 1974 he outlined his theory that black holes emit radiation
• In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Cambridge - a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton
• Awarded a CBE in 1982
• His book A Brief History of Time was published in 1988 and has sold more than 10 million copies
• Made a Companion of Honour in 1989
• In 2007, he boards the ‘vomit comet’ plane and becomes the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness
• Awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009
• Retired from his post as Lucastian Professor of Mathematics in 2009
• The The Theory of Everything, a film starring Eddie Redmayne, is released in 2014
Stephen Hawking: His quotes
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
“This complete set of laws can give us the answers to questions like how did the universe begin. Where is it going and will it have an end? If so, how will it end? If we find the answers to these questions, we really shall know the mind of God.”
“For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”
“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”