Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous physicist, died early Wednesday morning, a spokesman for Cambridge University, where he was the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, confirmed to the New York Times. Hawking was 76.
A legendary cosmologist, Hawking was best known for his work on black holes. In 1988, he penned the bestseller A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, which is now regarded the foremost authority on gravity and the cosmos. Hawking suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease and used a speech synthesiser to communicate. (His only gripe with the computer that allowed him to speak, the Times reports, was that it gave him an American accent.) In 2014, director James Marsh adapted the story of Hawking and his wife Jane Hawking into a movie titled The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking.
"We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet," the statement read. "My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family."
The famous astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson mourned Hawking on Twitter. "His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake," Tyson wrote. "But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure."
Hawking is survived by his ex-wife Jane Hawking and his three children, Lucy, Robert, and Timothy.
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