World renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76.
A spokesperson for the family said that he “died peacefully at his home in Cambridge” and that the family is requesting “time and privacy to mourn.”
Professor Hawking’s children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, released the following statement to the media.
“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.”
Hawking suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), with signs showing up as early as age 21. ALS causes degeneration of neurons responsible for voluntary muscle movement, resulting in long term permanent paralysis.
However, he did not make a name merely by surviving so many years with the crippling disease, but rather for the outstanding contributions he would make to the scientific community over the course of his life time.
He made major contributions to the fields of gravitation, cosmology, quantum theory, thermodynamics and information theory. Some of his work include studies relating to the origins of the universe, the Big Bang theory, the discovery of Black Hole radiation and gravitational waves.
In 1970, he collaborated with Roger Penrose, a UK physicist, to propose that the universe began as a singularity, suggesting that “the Big Bang was rather like the collapse of a black hole in reverse.”
In 1974, he proposed that radiation is emitted from just outside the event horizon of black holes. He also suggested that emitted sub atomic particle pairs split into two, with “one particle escaping the vicinity of the black hole while the other particle, of negative energy, disappears into it. The flow of particles of negative energy into the black hole reduces its mass until it disappears completely in a final burst of radiation.” This would eventually be classified as Hawking radiation.
You can read up more about his work via a 2016 profile published on BBC.
In his later years, he also suggested that alien life could possibly exist given how the balance of probability works. He also predicted potential doomsday scenarios which could arise from robots, nuclear bombs, and climate change. He also ruffled many feathers in the religious community back in 2010, declaring that God was not needed to set the universe in motion.
He was married to Jane Wilde from 1965 to 1995 and had three children. He later remarried to Elaine Mason from 1995 to 2006.