Stephen Hawking: Tributes pour in for ‘inspirational’ physicist. Scientists, politicians and actors have paid tribute to world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who has been called an “inspiration to millions”.
The British scientist, famed for his work on black holes, died peacefully at his home in Cambridge aged 76.
Astronomer Royal Lord Rees, one of the world’s most eminent scientists, described his life as a “triumph”.
Others described him as a “unique individual” whose death “has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake”.
Prof Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 21 and was told he had only a few years to live.
He was known for his theories on black holes and relativity and went on to publish several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.
The University of Cambridge, where Prof Hawking completed his PhD and went on to become Lucasian Professor of Mathematics – a role once held by Sir Isaac Newton – described him as “an inspiration to millions”.
Queues have formed at Gonville and Caius College – where Prof Hawking was a fellow for more than 50 years – to sign a book of condolence.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen will be sending a message of condolence to Prof Hawking’s family.
Prof Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement: “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.”
ritish astronaut Tim Peake, who flew in space in 2016, said Prof Hawking “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.
And the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, praised Prof Hawking’s “colossal mind and wonderful spirit”.
Many friends and fans have also hailed his humour, with actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Prof Hawking in 2014 film biopic The Theory of Everything, calling him “the funniest man I have ever met”.
Fellow actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who also played the physicist in a 2004 BBC TV film, remembered his “wickedly funny sense of humour”.
“He virtually created the publishing genre of popular science. I will miss our margaritas but will raise one to the stars to celebrate your life,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lord Rees – who holds the most prestigious post in astronomy in the UK – recalled meeting Prof Hawking at Cambridge University in 1964, describing him as “unsteady on his feet and speaking with great difficulty” following his diagnosis with the degenerative disease.
“Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he didn’t just survive. He became one of the most famous scientists in the world,” Lord Rees said
“He was diagnosed with a deadly disease, and his expectations dropped to zero. He himself said that everything that happened since then was a bonus.”
“And what a triumph his life has been,” Lord Rees added.
Factfile: Stephen Hawking
- Born 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England
- Earned place at Oxford University to read natural science in 1959, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge
- By 1963, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live
- Outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation” in 1974
- In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton
- Published his book A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has sold more than 10 million copies
- In the late 1990s, he was reportedly offered a knighthood, but 10 years later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science
Prime Minister Theresa May opened PMQs with a nod to Prof Hawking’s “exceptional contributions to science and our knowledge of the universe speak for themselves”.
“As his children have said, his courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world,” she said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also paid tribute to the physicist – who was a Labour
supporter – and said he “inspired the world with his determination to explain the mysteries of the cosmos” and “showed breathtaking courage to overcome life’s adversities”.
Former US President Barack Obama, who Prof Hawking met in 2009 to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, tweeted a photo of them both alongside the words: “Have fun out there among the stars”.Meanwhile, from the worlds of science, technology and space, Nasa said Prof Hawking’s theories “unlocked a universe of possibilities”.