LONDON — Tributes from around the world poured in Wednesday for Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most famous scientists, who died age 76.
Hawking, an intellectual giant who became an international symbol of the power of the human mind, died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, England.
The celebrated British physicist probed the mysteries of the cosmos and helped to popularize science with books like “A Brief History of Time,” an international bestseller.
When he was just 21, he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease and told by doctors he had only a few years to live. His illness left him unable to move a muscle and he could only talk with the help of a voice synthesizer.
On Wednesday morning, “Stephen Hawking” was trending worldwide on social media.
In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said that their father was a “great scientist and an extraordinary man.” They added: “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.”
NASA, the U.S. space agency, tweeted: “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.”
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
The founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee said: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit.”
We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. https://t.co/ectv7r4UIm
— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 14, 2018
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted: “Genius is so fine and rare. Goodbye Professor Hawking. You inspired and taught us all.”
Genius is so fine and rare. Goodbye Professor Hawking. You inspired and taught us all. pic.twitter.com/9Drdnv2eEe
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) March 14, 2018
The University of Cambridge, Hawking’s academic home, tweeted a video tribute while his college at the university opened a book of condolences.
Professor Stephen Hawking 1942-2018 - a video tribute https://t.co/DzwjZII2RL
— Cambridge University (@Cambridge_Uni) March 14, 2018
— Gonville & Caius (@CaiusCollege) March 14, 2018
“We lost a great one today,” wrote Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft.
We lost a great one today. Stephen Hawking will be remembered for his incredible contributions to science – making complex theories and concepts more accessible to the masses. He’ll also be remembered for his spirit and unbounded pursuit to gain a complet…https://t.co/z1du859Gy2
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) March 14, 2018
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said his passing had “left an intellectual vacuum.”
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
Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society, Britain’s leading scientific body, said in a statement: “Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies; he was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking.”
“He had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and it was thought that he might not survive long enough even to finish his PhD. But, amazingly, he lived on to the age of 76. Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he didn’t just survive. He became one of the most famous scientists in the world — acclaimed as a world-leading researcher in mathematical physics, for his best-selling books about space, time and the cosmos, and for his astonishing triumph over adversity.”
It wasn’t just the scientists that mourned his passing, but tributes came from 10 Downing Street as well, where the prime minister’s account celebrated him as an “inspiration” and one of the “great scientists of his generation.”
"Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten." — PM
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 14, 2018
Hawking also was a cultural phenomena, appearing on shows like The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory as well as an episode Star Trek: The Next Generation in which he played poker with actors portraying Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Films were also made about his life, including “The Theory of Everything,” which saw Eddie Redmayne win an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking.
Redmayne said on Wednesday: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.” (Hawking once joked that “unfortunately Eddie did not inherit my good looks.”)
— The Big Bang Theory (@bigbangtheory) March 14, 2018
I just heard about Stephen Hawking's passing. He was both a genius and my favorite Simpsons character. We'll miss you, buddy.
— Macaulay Culkin (@IncredibleCulk) March 14, 2018
Hawking was also known for his wit and sense of humor. “I think my work and sense of humor have kept me going,” Hawking said, during his BBC Reith Lecture series in 2016.
“It’s important not to become angry no matter how difficult life may seem because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and laugh in general,” he said.
A BBC reporter shared this story of Hawking at the BBC.
Hawking story was doing rounds at Newsnight. Producer left in room setting up for interview. Pulled out lead for light and Hawkins slumped forward in chair like disconnected something vital. Producer runs for help, returns to room to find Hawking chuckling. #RIPStephenHawking
— Jim Reed (@jim_reed) March 14, 2018
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard, recalled that when he gave lectures he would add in jokes even when it was difficult for him to speak.
I recall when we has giving lectures and it was a huge effort for him to speak (before the tracheotomy and the computer voice) he still made the effort to throw jokes in. That says something.
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 14, 2018
He also noted an extra significance of the date.
Stephen's death came on Albert Einstein's 139th birthday. Just thought you'd like to know.
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 14, 2018