Stephen Hawking, a renowned mathematician, physicist, and pop-culture icon, died early Wednesday at the age of 76, his family said in a statement.
“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,” his three children said in the statement.
The physicist suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an incurable degenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which left him almost entirely paralysed. Following throat surgery in 1985, he communicated through an electronic voice synthesiser.
Hawking was diagnosed with the motor neuron disease when he was 21. He lived with the disorder for more than 50 years, stunning doctors. Only 5% of people diagnosed with ALS survive for 10 years or longer, according to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Hawking had decided to heed the Palestinians’ call for boycotting Israel and pulled out of an Israeli conference in June 2013 hosted by Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres, scoring a victory for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. His refusal was made because of requests from Palestinian academics.
The highly respected scientist’s comments were sought for nearly every major discovery in the worlds of physics, astronomy, and cosmology.
The recipient of 12 honourary degrees, Hawking was also named Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post held by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years earlier.