Stephen Hawking, the famed theoretical physicist who defied a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to live virtually his entire adult life with the disease in a wheelchair and paralyzed but making constant contributions to a world few could understand has died at age 76, a family spokesman said.
Although Hawking may have been incapacitated physically, he managed to write books, including the best seller A Brief History of Time, teach physics and mathematics, deliver speeches and even float in zero gravity, all while working in the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity.
He was not modest about what he wanted to do. My goal is simple, he once said. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
Hawking reached his eighth decade, but was forced to miss a scientific debate to mark his 70th birthday in January 2012 because he was discharged from a hospital only two days earlier. His personal assistant told the reporters at the time his speech was getting noticeably slower, sometimes only a word a minute.
As part of the events surrounding his birthday, Hawking gave a rare interview to New Scientist magazine and declared there was still one puzzle left for him. Asked what he thought about most during the day, Hawking replied, Women. They are a complete mystery.
I’m the archetype of a disabled genius, or should I say a physically challenged genius, to be politically correct. At least I’m obviously physically challenged. Whether I’m a genius is more open to doubt.
Hawking was married and divorced twice. His first wife, Jane Wilde, was a fellow student at Cambridge to whom he was married for 28 years. He then married his nurse, Elaine Mason, whom he was with for 11 years before they separated.
He is survived by three children from his first marriage, Robert, Timothy and Lucy.