Famed British theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement announcing Hawking’s passing early Wednesday. Tributes from around the world poured in for the much-loved scientist, whose 1988 work ‘A Brief History of Time’ became an international bestseller, cementing his status as an icon both in the scientific world and in popular culture.
Born in 1942 in Oxford, 300 years to the day after the death of fellow famed physicist and astronomer Galileo, Hawking was inquisitive and curious from a young age. As he told TIME in 1988, just before the publication of his book, he enjoyed “finding out how the world around me worked,” but confessed that he was never very good at putting things back together.
When he was twelve, he recalls wryly, “one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled and, if so, who won.”
His student years were spent focused on physics, first at Oxford, and later at Cambridge, where he would go on to hold the prestigious Lucasian Professor of Mathematics chair. At the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease,’ a normally fatal illness. As TIME observed in 1988:
While ALS has made Hawking a virtual prisoner in his own body, it has left his courage and humor intact, his intellect free to roam. And roam it does, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the subatomic realm to the far reaches of the universe. In the course of these mental expeditions, Hawking …read more
Source:: Time – World