Physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, a spokesman for his family has said

Stephen Hawking has died aged 76
Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

Stephen Hawking, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76.

His family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming his death at his home in Cambridge.

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.”

Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21. Doctors expected him to live for only two more years. But Hawking had a form of the disease that progressed more slowly than usual. He survived for more than half a century and long enough for his disability to define him. His popularity would surely have been diminished without it.

Hawking’s first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose applied the mathematics of black holes to the entire universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.

Hawking continued to work on black holes and in 1974 drew on quantum theory to declare that black holes should emit heat and eventually pop out of existence. For normal black holes, the process is not a fast one, it taking longer than the age of the universe for a black hole the mass of the sun to evaporate. But near the ends of their lives, mini-black holes release heat at a spectacular rate, eventually exploding with the energy of a million one-megaton hydrogen bombs. Miniature black holes dot the universe, Hawking said, each as heavy as a billion tonnes, but no larger than a proton.

His proposal that black holes radiate heat stirred up one of the most passionate debates in modern cosmology.

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