NATIONAL: Professor Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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Renowned British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s finest scientific minds, has died at the age of 76, a family spokesman said.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Professor Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76, posing beside a lamp titled 'black hole light' by inventor Mark Champkins, presented to him during his visit to the Science Museum in London.  Anthony Devlin/PA

Professor Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76, posing beside a lamp titled 'black hole light' by inventor Mark Champkins, presented to him during his visit to the Science Museum in London. Anthony Devlin/PA

In a statement, his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: ‘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 forever.’

Prof Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, the eldest of four children, and went on to become one of the world’s most acclaimed cosmologists.

He was diagnosed with ALS, a rare form of motor neurone disease, in his 20s, eventually becoming wheelchair-bound and dependent on a computerised voice system for communication.

Despite this, he continued to travel the world giving science lectures and writing scientific papers about the basic laws which govern the universe.

Astronaut Tim Peake said Prof Hawking ‘inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe’.

‘His personality and genius will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his family,’ he wrote on Twitter.

The University of Cambridge, where Professor Hawking studied and worked, will open a book of condolence at Gonville and Caius College.