World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, a long-time campaigner for LGBT rights, has died aged 76.
The British scientist was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare form of motor neurone disease, at 21, and given two years to live.
The condition left him wheelchair-bound, able to speak only with a voice synthesiser, but over the next half-century, Hawking became world-famous as he transformed our understanding of physics.
He died peacefully at his Cambridge home in the early hours of this morning, his family said.
In 2012, Hawking called on the government to pardon gay war hero Alan Turing, who was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 after having sex with a man.
Turing was chemically castrated, barred from working for GCHQ, and took his own life at 41-years-old.
In an open letter, Hawking called Turing “one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era” and urged then-Prime Minister David Cameron to “forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today.”
A year later, the Queen granted Turing a posthumous pardon.
And last year, the British Government issued a pardon for men convicted of having sex with other men.
The pardon affected around 49,000 men convicted under the law.
Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time is the most successful Sunday Times best-seller of all time, holding top spot for more than five years.
His work with black holes and relativity was revolutionary, and his life was turned into the Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne.
Hawking’s death was met with tributes from all over the world.
Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the world wide web, said: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote on Twitter: “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.”
NASA’s Twitter account wrote: “Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science.
“His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring.
“May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014”.
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Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5
— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018
Professor James Hartle, who worked with Hawking in exploring and explaining the Big Bang, said he had a “unique” ability to “see through all the clutter in physics,” the BBC has reported.
Hartle said: “My memory of him would be… first our work together as scientists and, second, as a human being whose whole story is a triumph over adversity [and] who inspired a lot of people, including me.”
In a statement, his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, 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.”
They spoke of his “courage and persistence” adding that his “brilliance and humour” inspired people all over the world.
They continued: “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.”