Physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Neil deGrasse Tyson said Professor Hawking's passing has "left an intellectual vacuum in his wake"

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76

Picture by: David Parry/PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 13:15

The world-renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular books including A Brief History of Time.

Professor Hawking’s children Lucy, Robert, and Tim confirmed in a statement that the physicist died peacefully at his home in Cambridge early this morning.

The family 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.”

In this Thursday, May 15, 2008 file photo former South African President Nelson Mandela, right, meets with British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, left, in Johannesburg. Picture by: Denis Farrell/AP/Press Association Images

At the age 22 and during his post-graduate studies at Trinity Hall in Cambridge, Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

He spent decades in a wheelchair, and in later years could only speak through specially developed speech software & hardware which translated his hand - and later cheek muscle - movements.

His most famous book - A Brief History of Time - is credited with making complex scientific ideas accessible for a wider audience, and sold more than 10 million copies.

File photo dated 25/02/12 of Professor Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76, posing beside a lamp titled 'black hole light' by inventor Mark Champkins. Picture by: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/PA Images

Professor Hawking also became a well-known figure in popular culture, appearing in cameos for TV shows such as The Simpsons.

A biopic of his life - The Theory of Everything - was released in early 2015.

There have been widespread tributes to Professor Hawking this morning, including from prominent figures and organisations from the world of science.

David Moore, founder of Astronomy Ireland, observed: "Stephen Hawking was a hugely inspirational scientist but an even more inspirational human being. His passing leaves a huge black hole in the human race." 

Director Errol Morris made a 1991 documentary about Hawking entitled A Brief History of Time, and today praised the late scientist as a "truly fabulous human being".

British Prime Minister said Professor Hawking was a "brilliant and extraordinary mind".