Physicist Stephen Hawking, the father of the theory that black holes emit radiation called Hawking radiation, died Wednesday at the age of 76. He was the author of the international best seller, “A Brief History of Time,” which theorized over the origin and fate of the universe.
He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, at age 21. He stunned his doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years. However, in 1985 a severe case of pneumonia left him breathing through a tube. He used an electronic voice synthesizer to communicate, which gave him the distinctive robotic monotone voice he is known for.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about his passing.
“His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty,” he tweeted. “Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018.”
His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it's not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
He was a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, where he became the first to set out a “unified theory.” It was meant to explain and resolve the contradictions between the General Theory of Relativity (Einstein) and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics. The former deals with the laws of gravity and the latter with subatomic particles. Basically, the big and little stuff that make up everything in the universe.
Hawking was inducted into the Royal Society in 1974, received the Albert Einstein Award in 1978 and Queen Elizabeth II made him a Companion of Honor in 1989. It was one of the highest honors she could bestow unto a citizen.
The atheist physicist said that finding a “theory of everything” would allow mankind to “know the mind of God.” Hawking said belief in a God who governs the universe or intervenes “to make sure the good guys win or get rewarded in the next life” was nonsense.
“But one can’t help asking the question: Why does the universe exist?” he said in 1991. “I don’t know an operational way to give the question or the answer, if there is one, a meaning. But it bothers me.”
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965 and they had three children, Robert, Lucy and Timothy. He divorced Jane in 1991 and remarried his then-nurse Elaine Mason four years later. The marriage was said to be abusive, something they chose to leave out of the movie “The Theory of Everything.” In 2004, police got involved to investigate after media reports claimed he had suffered various injuries including a broken wrist and cuts to the face and lip.
They even claimed she left him stranded in the garden on the hottest day of the year.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years,” his children said in a joint statement. “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 humor 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.”
(Correction: A previous version of this article’s title stated “78,” though the article had the correct age at time of death – 76.)