The brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, Stephen Hawking, died at the age of 76 in the early hours of March 14 morning.

The British scientist, born on 8 January 1942, was famed for his work with black holes and relativity and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22, Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. But Hawking did not believe the doctors. He had other ideas. About himself and the world. 'He once said: It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love. In its tribute, The Gardian newspaper said, 'We will miss him for ever.'

Prof Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics. He also discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing, a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation. The scientist gained popularity outside the academic world and appeared in several TV shows including The Simpsons, Red Dwarf and The Big Bang Theory. Recently, a popular film was made on his life and work. He was widely loved for his good sense of humour.

In a statement that confirmed his death at home in Cambridge, Hawking's children said: 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.

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