BREAKING: Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76

BREAKING: Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76

Stephen Hawking dead aged 76 physicist died ALSGETTY

Stephen Hawking suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease

In a statement Professor Hawking's 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.'"

Born in Oxford on January 8 1942 - 300 years after the death of astronomer Galileo Galilei - Prof Hawking grew up in St Albans.

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He had a difficult time at the local public school and was persecuted as a "swot" who was more interested in jazz, classical music and debating than sport and pop.

Although not top of the class, he was good at maths and "chaotically enthusiastic in chemistry".

Fellow scientists and loved ones said it was his intuition and wicked sense of humour that him out as much as his broken body and synthetic voice.

Professor Hawking suffered from a rate early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease or Lou Gehrig's disease.

He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21.

Doctors expected him to live for only two more years, but he had a form of the disease which progressed more slowly than usual.

Incredible Stephen Hawking quotes to inspire you Wed, November 8, 2017Here are quotes from the director of research and founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time
Life would be tragic if it weren't funny.

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Life would be tragic if it weren't funny.

Hawking once estimated he worked only 1,000 hours during his undergraduate years at Oxford.

He wrote in his 2013 autobiography, My Brief History: “You were supposed to be either brilliant without effort, or accept your limitations.”

In his finals, Hawking came borderline between a first and a second class degree.

Convinced he was a difficult student, he told his viva examiners if they gave him a first he would move to Cambridge to pursue his PHD but if they gave him a second he would stay in Oxford - he was awarded a first.

When embarking on his career, he said: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”

He long fought the use of a wheelchair, using crutches in the 1960s.

Stephen Hawking dead aged 76 physicist died ALSGETTY

Stephen Hawking resisted using a wheelchair

When he finally gave in he became notorious for his wild driving along the streets of Cambridge.

He also used to intentionally run over students’ toes and occasionally spin on the dance floor at college parties.

His 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 from the big bang.

The late professor was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Time best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

Stephen Hawking dead aged 76 physicist died ALSGETTY

Stephen Hawking's first major breakthrough came in 1970

He was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Despite being wheelchair-bound, almost completely paralysed and unable to speak except through his trademark voice synthesiser, he wrote a plethora of scientific papers that earned him comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

At the same time he embraced popular culture with enthusiasm and humour, appearing in TV cartoon The Simpsons, starring in Star Trek and providing the voice-over for a British Telecom commercial that was later sampled on rock band Pink Floyd's The Division Bell album.

Speaking about his time on The Simpsons, he said: “My daughter knew one of the scriptwriters. He told me he wanted to write an episode involving me.

“I accepted immediately because it would be fun and because The Simpsons is the best thing on American television.

“The episode was very funny and almost as many people know me through The Simpsons as through my science.”

His rise to fame and relationship with his first wife, Jane, was dramatised in a 2014 film, The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne put in an Oscar-winning performance as the physicist battling with a devastating illness.

But he also ruffled a few feathers within the scientific establishment with far-fetched statements about the existence of extraterrestrials, time travel, and the creation of humans through genetic engineering.

He has also predicted the end of humanity, due to global warming, a new killer virus, or the impact of a large comet.

In 2015 he teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner who has launched a series of projects aimed at finding evidence of alien life.

The decade-long Breakthrough Listen initiative aims to step up the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) by listening out for alien signals with more sensitivity than ever before.

More to follow…

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