Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous physicist, dies at age of 76

Professor Stephen Hawking at Cambridge in 2013

Hawking, who had been suffering from ALS for many years, died "peacefully in his home" on Monday, according to a family statement. Hawking's health had been reportedly deteriorating; just over a year ago, he was hospitalized during a trip to Rome.

"His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake", tweeted Neil deGrasse Tyson. But it's not empty.

Physicist Stephen Hawking, a scientific mastermind helped mankind better understand the world and the universe, died at the age of 76.

- "The Grand Design": Hawking said this 2010 book co-written with American physicist Leonard Mlodinow was meant to address important unanswered questions such as why there is a universe and whether the universe needed a creator and designer. "Stephen was a joyful and lighthearted person, not to be burdened by excessively respectful and convoluted interactions", he says.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on what turned out to be an auspicious date: January 8, 1942 - the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21, while a doctoral student in cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Hawking was later married for 11 years to Elaine Mason, one of his former nurses. "I fell over and had great difficulty getting up", he told the audience.

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In 2007, he became the first quadriplegic to experience weightlessness on board the so-called "vomit comet", a modified plane specially created to simulate zero gravity.

Then, grinning widely, he added, "I seem to manage to do anything that I really want".

Doctors predicted he would only live a few years, but he instead thrived, focusing on his work that included seeking to bridge the gap between Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that describes the motion of large objects and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics dealing with subatomic particles. He went on to have an active career for decades, both as a theoretical physicist and as a popularizer of science. However, with the use of technology, he was able to communicate without much difficulty. But it was A Brief History of Time that rocketed Hawking to stardom. Hawking said his thinking had been influenced by significant advancements in physics that had followed publication of "A Brief History of Time". He relished making cameo apparitions on television shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory.

But there have been several eccentric minds, who solved some of the greatest mysteries such as the behavior of black holes by Stephen Hawking.

NASA tweeted a tribute video to Hawking, whose theories "unlocked a universe of possibilities" that the world continues to discover.

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