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Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76
Posted at 2:31 PM, Nov 10, 2015
and last updated 2018-03-13 20:09:21-04

(RNN) - Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has died at age 76, the BBC reports.

Hawking studied the laws of time and space, becoming an international celebrity in the process.

He was the author of several best-sellers, including "A Brief History of Time," "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays," "The Universe in a Nutshell," "The Grand Design" and "My Brief History."

Hawking's scholarly pursuits dealt with time - whether it has a beginning and end, what happens in a black hole and whether time warps are possible.

While studying time, he has survived the ravages of an incurable disease. He was diagnosed with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, at age 21.

Though he was given only two years to live after his diagnosis, he lived more than 50 years.

The motor neurone disease, formerly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, causes nerve cells to break down and die, according to Mayo Clinic.

Hawking's early struggles with scholarship, love and a devastating diagnosis was chronicled in the award-winning 2014 biopic, The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Hawking.

Because of ALS, Hawking was bound to wheelchair. After a tracheostomy in 1985, Hawking lost the ability to speak. He relies on an elaborate computer system to communicate, which he access with a switch he moves with his cheek. He also requires constant care.

Hawking has faced a number of health challenges and was described as "on the cusp of death" in April 2009, according to the Guardian.

Most recently, in November, he had to cancel high-profile lectures because of bad health.

Besides books, scholarships and lectures, Hawking has made guest appearances in live action and cartoon TV shows such as "The Simpsons," "Futurama," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Hawking was born on Jan. 8, 1942, 300 years after the death of Galileo, his website said. Though his parents were from north London, he was born in Oxford because his family had to evacuate due to the German Blitz.

Hawking first attended University College, Oxford. Though he wanted to study mathematics, he pursued physics instead because mathematics wasn't offered at Oxford.

Hawking gained a Ph.D. in cosmology at Cambridge University and studied as a fellow at Gonville and Caius College.

He studied at Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy before coming to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1979 as a Lucasian Professor, a title once held by Isaac Newton, until 2009.

He led the general relatively group at the department and was principal investigator of the COSMOS National Cosmology Supercomputer.

Hawking remained active at Cambridge as a Dennis Stantion Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research as the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

Hawking married and divorced twice, first to Jane Wilde and then to his nurse, Elaine Mason. He had three children and three grandchildren.

In July 2015, Hawking funded a $100 million search for alien life beyond the solar system, scanning the universe for radio transmissions, according to the Guardian.

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