One of science’s brightest stars Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

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The physicist and author of A Brief History of Time has died at his home in Cambridge. His children said: ‘We will miss him for ever’

Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist who overcame a devastating neurological disease to probe the greatest mysteries of the cosmos and become a globally celebrated symbol of the power of the human mind, has died.

He was 76.

Unable to move a muscle, speechless but for a computer-synthesised voice, Professor Hawking suffered since the age of 21 from a degenerative motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Initially given two years to live, a diagnosis that threw him into a profound depression, he found the strength to complete his doctorate and rise to the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the same post held by Isaac Newton 300 years earlier.

Hawking eventually became one of the planet’s most renowned science popularisers, and he embraced the attention, travelling the world, meeting with presidents, visiting Antarctica and Easter Island, and flying on special “zero-gravity” jet whose parabolic flight let Hawking float through the cabin as if he were in outer space.

“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 spent much of his career searching for a way to reconcile Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum physics and produce a “Theory of Everything”.

He wrote an international best seller, A Brief History of Time 1988), which delved into the origin and ultimate fate of the universe.

He deliberately set out to write a mass-market primer on an often incomprehensible subject.

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