Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at the age of 76

Sientist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, a spokesman for his family has said.

Professor Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim 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.

“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.”

The world famous physicist and cosmologist was the subject of the 2014 film The Theory Of Everything, which starred Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Hawking contracted motor neurone disease in 1963 and was given two years to live but he went on to study at Cambridge and became one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein.

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Read more: SkyNews

Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA (/ˈstvən ˈhɔːkɪŋ/ (About this sound listen); 8 January 1942–14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.[14][15] His scientific works include a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He is a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.[16][17]

Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009 and has achieved commercial success with works of popular sciencein which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general; his book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

Hawking has a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that has gradually paralysed him over the decades.[18][19] He now communicates using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device.

He died on 13 March 2018, at the age of 76.[20]


Hawking has a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease, that has gradually paralysed him over the decades.[19]

Hawking had experienced increasing clumsiness during his final year at Oxford, including a fall on some stairs and difficulties when rowing.[248][249] The problems worsened, and his speech became slightly slurred; his family noticed the changes when he returned home for Christmas, and medical investigations were begun.[250][251] The diagnosis of motor neurone disease came when Hawking was 21, in 1963. At the time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years.[252][253]

In the late 1960s, Hawking’s physical abilities declined: he began to use crutches and ceased lecturing regularly.[254] As he slowly lost the ability to write, he developed compensatory visual methods, including seeing equations in terms of geometry.[255][256] The physicist Werner Israel later compared the achievements to Mozart composing an entire symphony in his head.[257][258] Hawking was, however, fiercely independent and unwilling to accept help or make concessions for his disabilities. He preferred to be regarded as “a scientist first, popular science writer second, and, in all the ways that matter, a normal human being with the same desires, drives, dreams, and ambitions as the next person.”[259] His wife, Jane Hawking, later noted: “Some people would call it determination, some obstinacy. I’ve called it both at one time or another.”[260] He required much persuasion to accept the use of a wheelchair at the end of the 1960s,[261] but ultimately became notorious for the wildness of his wheelchair driving.[262] Hawking was a popular and witty colleague, but his illness, as well as his reputation for brashness, distanced him from some.[260]

Hawking’s speech deteriorated, and by the late 1970s he could be understood by only his family and closest friends. To communicate with others, someone who knew him well would translate his speech into intelligible speech.[263] Spurred by a dispute with the university over who would pay for the ramp needed for him to enter his workplace, Hawking and his wife campaigned for improved access and support for those with disabilities in Cambridge,[264][265] including adapted student housing at the university.[266] In general, however, Hawking had ambivalent feelings about his role as a disability rights champion: while wanting to help others, he also sought to detach himself from his illness and its challenges.[267] His lack of engagement in this area led to some criticism.[268]

During a visit to CERN on the border of France and Switzerland in mid-1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia, which in his condition was life-threatening; he was so ill that Jane was asked if life support should be terminated. She refused, but the consequence was a tracheotomy, which would require round-the-clock nursing care and remove what remained of his speech.[269][270] The National Health Service was ready to pay for a nursing home, but Jane was determined that he would live at home. The cost of the care was funded by an American foundation.[271][272] Nurses were hired for the three shifts required to provide the round-the-clock support he required. One of those employed was Elaine Mason, who was to become Hawking’s second wife.[273]

For his communication, Hawking initially raised his eyebrows to choose letters on a spelling card.[274] But in 1986 he received a computer program called the “Equalizer” from Walter Woltosz, CEO of Words Plus, who had developed an earlier version of the software to help his mother-in-law, who also suffered from ALS and had lost her ability to speak and write.[275] In a method he uses to this day, Hawking could now simply press a switch to select phrases, words or letters from a bank of about 2,500–3,000 that are scanned.[276][277] The program was originally run on a desktop computer. However, Elaine Mason’s husband, David, a computer engineer, adapted a small computer and attached it to his wheelchair.[278] Released from the need to use somebody to interpret his speech, Hawking commented that “I can communicate better now than before I lost my voice.”[279] The voice he uses has an American accent and is no longer produced.[280][281] Despite the availability of other voices, Hawking has retained this original voice, saying that he prefers it and identifies with it.[282] At this point, Hawking activated a switch using his hand and could produce up to 15 words a minute.[146] Lectures were prepared in advance and were sent to the speech synthesiser in short sections to be delivered.[280]

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