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World mourns the loss of most famous scientist - Stephen Hawking who died aged 76

Junie Sihlangu
Mar 14, 2018
10:17 A.M.

The great and well-known physicist has passed on just a few years away from turning 80. Stephen Hawking was known for his book that changed scientific theories.

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According to USA Today, the scientist passed away on March 14, 2018. The cause of his death hasn’t yet been released to the public but many of his colleagues and fans have offered their condolences.

Stephen Hawking was one of the world's foremost theoretical physicists. He was so famous that on the cover of the Oxford Dictionary of Scientists, Hawking appeared with Einstein and Madame Curie.

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For decades, the physicist was confined to a wheelchair. He was stuck in a wheelchair because of a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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The disease is neurological and it handcuffs movement. Hawking communicated via a speech synthesizer.

The scientist was best known as the author of A Brief History of Time. This was the best-selling 1988 book that first brought modern astrophysics into popular understanding for many and made him into an icon.

‘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.’

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Twitter, March 14, 2018

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His theories on black holes and other physics phenomena were regularly noted in newspapers. The Simpsons featured him in one of its cartoon episodes showing his reach into popular culture.

Hawking was also featured in Big Bang Theory, as a hero to the show's main character, theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper. His book The Grand Design was co-authored by Caltech’s Leonard Mlodinow.

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It attracted readers, as well as controversy, with its claim that cosmology showed God was unnecessary to the creation of the universe. American University science writing professor Declan Fahy, had some thoughts about Hawking in the Columbia Journalism Review.

On Hawking’s 70th birthday in 2012, Fahy stated that the physicist’s public image could not have occurred without the media. “This has led to tensions within his field. Other physicists have been, at times, ambivalent about his reputation, because of what some of them see as his having a public profile that is out of proportion to his scientific merit,” Fahy further stated.

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But Hawking’s popularity rested on his genuine achievements. His remarkable strides in understanding black holes and the origin of the universe started with a 1974 paper entitled ‘Blackhole explosion?’

The paper was published in the journal, Nature. ‘Hawking radiation,’ for example, the emission of heat from black holes, is now accepted as a fundamental, unexpected, concept in physics.

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The concept solved a puzzle of how these imploded stars could exist and be theoretically reconciled with the conventional understanding of energy. Hawking showed that black holes served as cosmic laboratories for sorting out Einstein’s theory of gravity with the “quantum” theories of electromagnetic and nuclear forces.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England. He graduated from Oxford University and later Cambridge University, taking the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics position there in 1979.

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That was the same position that was once held by Isaac Newton. Hawking is survived by his three children, Robert, Lucy and Timothy, children of his first marriage.

Hawking’s second marriage, to Jane Hawking, ended in 2006. Despite his physical ailments, he was known for having a direct and dry wit.

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He often combined the marvelous and mundane in his observations. “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star,” he told Der Spiegel in 1989.

He added that we could understand the universe and that was what made us something very special.

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Many people have taken to social media to convey their condolences. The University of Cambridge posted a video tribute to the scientist.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson, Errol Morris, Steve Gleason, Tim Berners-Lee, Scott Kelly, and Tim Peake were among the many that mourned the physicist. Other’s that also shared their thoughts were Brian Cox, Prime Minister Theresa May, Dan Rather, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

His passing has left a hole that might never be filled.

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