Photo Credit: Unilad
By Chiamaka Ajeamo
Stephen Hawking, the legendary theoretical physicist and author of “A Brief History of Time” who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while himself working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76.
The UK’s Press Association reported his death this morning, citing a spokesman for the family.
Hawking was one of the renowned scientists of the past century, known for numerous advances in the fields of cosmology and physics. His formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the bizarre sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.
Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking’s children, in a statement credited to Guardian in the early hours of Wednesday, today, 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. 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.”
His scientific works ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the tantalizing prospect of time travel to the mysteries of space’s all-consuming black holes.
The power of Hawking’s intellect however, was contrasted cruelly with the weakness of his body, ravaged by the wasting motor neurone disease he contracted at the age of 21 in 1963. With the neurone disease, he was given a life expectancy of two more years but the disease progressed more slowly than originally thought and he continued pursuing his scientific researches.
Hawking was confined for most of his life to a wheelchair. As his condition worsened, he had to resort to speaking through a voice synthesizer and communicating by moving his eyebrows.
The disease spurred him to work harder but also contributed to the collapse of his two marriages, he wrote in a 2013 memoir “My Brief History.”
In the book he related how he was first diagnosed, he had this to say “I felt it was very unfair why should this happen to me? At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would never realize the potential I felt I had. But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life.”
Hawking shot to international fame after the 1988 publication of “A Brief History of Time”, one of the most complex books ever to achieve mass appeal, which stayed on the Sunday Times best-sellers list for no fewer than 237 weeks.
He said he wrote the book to convey his own excitement over recent discoveries about the universe.
“My original aim was to write a book that would sell on airport bookstalls,” he told reporters at the time. “In order to make sure it was understandable I tried the book out on my nurses. I think they understood most of it.”