Stephen Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research, University of Cambridge as he and Yuri Milner host press conference to announce Breakthrough Starshot, a new space exploration initiative, at One World Observatory on April 12, 2016 in New York City. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation)

< Go to Homepage

Physicist and Author Stephen Hawking Dies at 76

Hawking did not allow his physical limitations to hinder his quest to answer big questions.

Stephen W. Hawking, the Cambridge University physicist and best-selling author who roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair, making discoveries that changed how we see the universe, has died. He was  76. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson for Cambridge University. “Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said to The New York Times. Hawking is the author of A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, which was published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film. The 2014 film about Hawking’s life, The Theory of Everything, was nominated for several Academy Awards. In the scientific world, Hawking will be best remembered for his discovery: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes. When Hawking was in graduate school in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was told he only had a few years to live. The disease ultimately reduced his bodily control to flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements but left his mental faculties untouched. He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes. He pushed the limits, not only in his intellectual life but also in his professional and personal lives. He traveled the globe to scientific meetings, visiting every continent, including Antarctica, wrote best-selling books about his work, married twice, fathered three children, and appeared on TV shows including The Simpsons, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Big Bang Theory. To celebrate his 60th birthday, he went up in a hot air balloon. He took part in a zero-gravity flight aboard a specially equipped Boeing 727 a few months after his 65th birthday. When asked why he took such big risks, Hawking answered, “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit,” according to The Times. 

Read the full story at The New York Times