Academia bids farewell to physics giant Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking arrives at the UK premiere of the film "The Theory of Everything" which is based around his life, at a cinema in central London, Britain, December 9, 2014. Source: Reuters/Andrew Winning

The global science community is in mourning over the death of Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge who wrote the bestselling A Brief History of Time.

He had a rare, early onset form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which gradually paralysed him over the course of his life and meant he lived with constant threat of premature death. The 76-year-old Hawking was Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.

There he “broke new ground on the basic laws which govern the universe, including the revelation that black holes have a temperature and produce radiation, now known as Hawking radiation”, according to a statement released by the university.

“Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world,” said Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope.

“His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularization of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed,” said Toope.

Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge, of which Hawking had been a fellow for more than 50 years, said it was flying its flag at half mast in tribute and would open a book of condolence for any who wanted to pay tribute.

Celebrity scientist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson, tweeted that: “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake.”

“Sad to hear about Stephen Hawking. What a remarkable life. His contributions to science will be used as long as there are scientists, and there are many more scientists because of him,” tweeted Professor Brian Cox who lectures in particle physics at the University of Manchester.

“He spoke about the value and fragility of human life and civilisation and greatly enhanced both.”

Australian National University professor of astrophysics Matthew Colless said “Hawking was a great scientist and an inspirational figure. The universe is better understood and more interesting because he was in it.”

Chief Executive and Director of the London-based Francis Crick Institute, Paul Nurse, said that “Stephen Hawking was a great physicist, a great public communicator, and a great icon for science and rationalism throughout the world. He will be sorely missed.”

Vale Stephen Hawking.

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