British physicist Stephen Hawking passes away at 76

Prominent British theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, a family spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday. Professor Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement, "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," Hawking's children added. Professor Hawking was the subject of the 2014 film 'The Theory Of Everything', which starred British actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones respectively. In 1963, Professor Hawking contracted a motor neuron disease that gradually paralysed him over the decades. He was still able to communicate using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles. Professor Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, he was ranked 25th in the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) poll of the '100 Greatest Britons.' His book - 'A Brief History of Time', a popular-science book on cosmology, had appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks in the 2000s.