Stephen Hawking: The man who made astro-physics understandable

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World renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking has died at 76, according to a family spokesman.

His children Lucy, Robert and Tim said they were deeply saddened by their father's passing.

Professor Hawking's children in a statement described him as 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.

Hawking died in the early morning of Wednesday, March 14 at his home in Cambridge, England. Hawking's most recent high-profile trip to Seattle came in 2012. "It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all".

As he was preparing to marry his first wife, Jane, in 1964 his doctors gave him no more than two or three years of life.

Hawking's acclaimed book, A Brief History of Time, was made into a documentary in 1991, directed by Errol Morris, who also paid tribute.

In 1974, Hawking proposed what is known as his most significant theory that black holes can emit sub-atomic particles.

With fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum theory, suggesting that space and time would begin with Big Bang and end in black holes.

He once wrote that he had motor neurone disease for practically all his adult life but said that it had not stopped him having an attractive family and being successful in his work.

Hawking's other major scientific contribution was to cosmology, the study of the universe's origin and evolution.

"I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case". "I fell over and had great difficulty getting up", he told the audience. Much has already been written (I again direct you to The Guardian's obituary) that does a far better job of explaining Hawking's life and career.

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

As an astrophysicist who has spent a significant fraction of my career working on the observational aspects of black holes using radio telescopes, and hoping to continue that with the billion dollar Square Kilometre Array over the next decade, Stephen Hawking's work to understand the physics of black holes is close to my heart.

Hawking's formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the freaky sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.

FILE PHOTO: Stephen Hawking arrives at the United Kingdom premiere of the film "The Theory of Everything" which is based around his life, at a cinema in central London, Britain, December 9, 2014.