World-renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, according to his children. He passed away peacefully at his Cambridge home in the early hours of Wednesday, March 14. Hawking was not only hailed as one of the greatest minds of his generation, but forever changed the way we look at the universe and our planet's place in it.
Hawking was stricken with a rare slow-progressing form of ALS or motor neurone disease as a young man, but eclipsed any physical effects it had on his body with his brilliant mind. The impact that he had on science and humankind's further exploration of the universe will carry on for generations. Here's what you need to know about Stephen Hawking's cause of death and more importantly, his life.
What was Stephen Hawking's cause of death?
Hawking's cause of death is believed to be related to complications from ALS, according to Newsweek. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease at the age of 21. The disease eventually confined Hawking to a motorized wheelchair and took his voice, forcing him to speak through a voice synthesizer that he controlled with his eyebrows. While doctors initially predicted that Hawking would only live two years, he lived with the disease for more than five decades.
Hawking attributed the disease to pushing him to work harder in his 2013 memoir, My Brief History. "At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would never realize the potential I felt I had. But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life."
He is known for his books on the universe and theories on black holes.
Born January 8, 1942 on the 300th anniversary of famous astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei, Hawking began his work in physics in the 1960s while studying at University College, Oxford.
Some of Hawking's earliest work that garnered him international attention took place in the 1970s when in 1974 he worked on combining Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity and its relation to subatomic particles in quantum theory. March 14, the day of Hawking's death also happened to be Einstein's birthday.
It was Hawking's 1988 book, A Brief History of Time that made him a household name when it spent 237 weeks on the best-sellers list.
Hawking was a strong believer in the possibilities of the human race and in 2008 told CNN that he believed the future of humans would be in space — as long as we could stay out of our own way.
"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," said Hawking. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."
The physicist's impact crossed over from science to pop culture.
Hawking eventually had his life made into an Oscar-winning movie and was portrayed on screen by British actor Eddie Redmayne. Even before the 2014 film, The Theory of Everything, Hawking had become somewhat of a fixture in pop culture.
Hawking appeared on Star Trek: the Next Generation and made a cameo as himself in one of The Simpson's most-beloved episodes.
Hawking was well-known for his sense of humor and once said that if he had the choice of meeting Marilyn Monroe or Isaac Newton, he'd opt for the Hollywood bombshell.
The physicist married his first wife Jane Wilde in 1965 before becoming divorced in 1995. He would later marry one of his nurses, Elaine Mason, but that marriage ended in divorce in 2006 after 11 years of marriage. He is survived by his three children.
“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today, read a statement from his children. “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 humor inspired people across the world."