Stephen Hawking: Tributes pour in for 'inspirational' physicist
[March 15 2018]
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
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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
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."
Hawking, who was born in 1942, studied physics in Oxford and
later went on to Cambridge for his postgraduate research in
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, broadcaster
Prof Brian Cox called him "one of the greats" and said physicists in
1,000 years' time "will still be talking about Hawking radiation", his
theory about black holes.
British 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
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
Fellow actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who also played the
physicist in a 2004 BBC TV film, remembered his "wickedly funny sense of
"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.
Cumberbatch said Prof Hawking was a "true inspiration for me
and for millions around the world"
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
"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
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
American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted:
"His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake" while George
Smoot, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics, described Prof Hawking as
The European Space Agency shared a photo of Prof
Hawking in 2007 experiencing zero gravity aboard a plane, alongside a
caption which said he "showed us there are no limits to achieving our
the worlds of science and technology praised Prof Hawking's
Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of
the University of Cambridge said Prof Hawking has left "an indelible
"Prof Hawking was a unique individual who will be
remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over
the world," he said. "He will be much missed."
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Celebrities including Sam Smith, Nancy Sinatra and
Janelle Mon e also shared tributes.
Cher recalled meeting Prof Hawking for lunch and
discussing history while Katy Perry said: "There's a big black hole in
Comedian Dara O'Briain, who has a degree in
mathematics and theoretical physics and is also the presenter of the
BBC's Stargazing Live, called Prof Hawking "a hero of mine".
He said: "What a privilege it was to know Stephen
Hawking. He was a triumph of what we, as humans, can achieve."
His life story was made into a 2014 film, The Theory of
Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne as the scientist
He also went
on to meet Queen Elizabeth in 2014 during a charity event at
St James' Palace
Meanwhile, neuroscientist and The Big Bang Theory
actress Mayim Bialik, who met with Prof Hawking when he starred in the
series, shared a photo of him and the cast.
She described him as "the greatest physicist of our
era" while the show itself thanked him "for inspiring us and the world".
Many people have praised Prof Hawking's contribution
to popular culture, with Oxford University biologist Sally Le Page
remarking he was "as much as a cultural icon as a scientific one".
According to online retailer Amazon, Prof Hawking's
book A Brief History of Time has risen to the top of its best sellers
list following the announcement of his death on Wednesday.
With the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose, he showed
that if there was a Big Bang, it must have started from an infinitely
small point - a singularity
Black holes radiate energy known as Hawking radiation,
while gradually losing mass. This is due to quantum effects near the
edge of the black hole, a region called the event horizon
He predicted the existence of mini-black holes at the
time of the Big Bang. These black holes would have shed mass until they
vanished, potentially ending their lives in an explosion that would
release vast amounts of energy
In the 1970s, Hawking considered whether the particles
and light that enter a black hole were ultimately destroyed if the black
hole evaporated. Hawking initially thought that this "information" was
lost from the Universe. But the US physicist Leonard Susskind disagreed.
These ideas became known as the information paradox. In 2004, Hawking
conceded that the information must be conserved
The Royal Albert Hall said the "genius" Prof Hawking
was the second physicist, after Albert Einstein in 1933, to ever sell
out the venue with his lecture in 1995.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association said Prof
Hawking "played a vital role" in raising awareness of the disease, which
kills more than half of people within two years of diagnosis.
The charity said it had seen such an "influx of
donations" following the announcement of Prof Hawking's death that its
website had crashed.
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