Scientist Stephen Hawking dead at age 76

Physicist Stephen Hawking, a scientific mastermind helped mankind better understand the world and the universe, died at the age of 76. 

Hawking died in the early morning of Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England, a family spokesperson announced. 

“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," the family said in a statement. "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.”

Hawking was limited physically by early onset Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. At the age of 21, doctors only gave Hawking several years to live. But for more than five decades, Hawking defied odds and experts, although ALS limited his physical abilities. 

Hawking spent most of his adult like in a motorized scooter. He also used a computer to speak. 

"Since 1997, my computer-based communication system has been sponsored and provided by Intel Corporation," Hawking wrote on his website. 

"I can select a character by moving my cheek to stop the cursor," he added. My cheek movement is detected by an infrared switch that is mounted on my spectacles. This switch is my only interface with the computer."

He in turn became an advocate for those with disabilities. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Hawking with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Hawking became one of the world's leading scientists with the publishing of his book "A Brief History of Time" in 1988. The book addressed, and explained, complex concepts such as black holes, the big bang and the relation of space and time. The book sold more than 10 million copies, and has been translated into 35 languages. 

Hawking then wrote more than a dozen documentaries. 

"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," fellow scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted. 

Hawking also ventured into pop cultural, appearing on sitcoms such as "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Simpsons." 

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