Neil deGrasse Tyson said Professor Hawking's passing has "left an intellectual vacuum in his wake"
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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".
It had to happen, eventually. We were lucky to have him for so long, and I was lucky to be able to work with him. A truly fabulous human being. Stephen Hawking. Funny, perverse, and, of course, brilliant.— errolmorris (@errolmorris) March 14, 2018
British Prime Minister said Professor Hawking was a "brilliant and extraordinary mind".
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.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) March 14, 2018