The world has lost a brilliant mind. Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died on Wednesday, March 14, the University of Cambridge confirmed to the Associated Press. He was 76 years old.
His children Lucy, Robert and Tim also shared a statement with the news agency about their father’s passing: “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 humor 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.”
Hawking’s life story was brought to the big screen in the 2014 film The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne earned an Oscar for his portrayal of the scientist, who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21. The disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a “group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells … responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement,” according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease is progressive, killing the patient usually within five years, and there is currently no cure. Yet the scientist beat the odds and survived for more than 50 years with ALS, though it left him wheelchair-bound.
Hawking is considered one of the scientific community’s biggest stars. Working with physicist Roger Penrose, “he showed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes,” according to Hawking’s website. He also penned the 1988 best-seller A Brief History of Time, in which he explored questions such as how the universe began, whether it’s unending, the flow of time, and more — all in a language the average reader could understand. The tome went on to sell more than 10 million copies.
The British scientist did not away from sharing his thoughts when asked to discuss world politics. During a 2016 interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he was quite blunt when questioned about Donald Trump‘s growing appeal ahead of the U.S, presidential election. “He is a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” Hawking said.
The physicist was also recognized in pop culture. He has made guest appearances on hit shows including The Big Bang Theory, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons, and Futurama.
Hawking is survived by his three children, as well as his three grandchildren.