Stephen Hawking, who unlocked the secrets of space and time, dies at 76

Stephen Hawking, who unlocked the secrets of space and time, dies at 76

Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain the origins of the universe, the mysteries of black holes and the prospect of time travel, died on Wednesday aged 76.

Hawking’s formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the bizarre sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.

Ravaged by the wasting motor neurone disease he developed at 21, Hawking was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life.

As his condition worsened, he had to speak through a voice synthesiser and communicating by moving his eyebrows – but at the same time became the world’s most recognisable scientist. (Graphics on ‘A brief history of Stephen Hawking’ – tmsnrt.rs/2p9GLre)

Hawking died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday.

“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. “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.”

Hawking shot to international fame after the 1988 publication of ““A Brief History of Time”, one of the most complex books ever to achieve mass appeal, which stayed on the Sunday Times best-sellers list for no fewer than 237 weeks.

“”My original aim was to write a book that would sell on airport bookstalls,” he told reporters at the time. ““In order to make sure it was understandable I tried the book out on my nurses. I think they understood most of it.”

The physicist’s disease spurred him to work harder but also contributed to the collapse of his two marriages, he wrote in a 2013 memoir “My Brief History”.