LONDON - Tributes from around the world began to pour in Wednesday for Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s most famous scientists, who died age 76.
Hawking, an intellectual giant who became an international symbol the power of the human mind, died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, England.
The celebrated British physicist probed the mysteries of the cosmos and helped to popularize science with books like ‘‘A Brief History of Time,’’ an international bestseller.
When he was just 21, he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease and told by doctors he had only a few years to live. His illness left him unable to move a muscle and he could only talk with the help of a voice synthesizer.
A spokesman for Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences that hands out the Nobel Prizes in physics says Hawking ‘‘was a great scientist who made considerable contributions to science.’’
Goran Hansson says Hawking’s death “is a loss for the world of science.’’ He declined to comment on whether Hawking should have been awarded the prestigious prize, in line with the Nobel policy.
On Wednesday morning, ‘‘Stephen Hawking’’ was trending worldwide on social media.
NASA, the U.S. space agency, tweeted:
Remembering Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist and ambassador of science. His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we & the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014 pic.twitter.com/FeR4fd2zZ5— NASA (@NASA) March 14, 2018
The founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee said:
We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. https://t.co/ectv7r4UIm— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) March 14, 2018
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted:
Genius is so fine and rare. Goodbye Professor Hawking. You inspired and taught us all. pic.twitter.com/9Drdnv2eEe— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) March 14, 2018
‘‘We lost a great one today,’’ wrote Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft.
We lost a great one today. Stephen Hawking will be remembered for his incredible contributions to science ? making complex theories and concepts more accessible to the masses. He?ll also be remembered for his spirit and unbounded pursuit to gain a complet?https://t.co/z1du859Gy2— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) March 14, 2018
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said his passing had ‘‘left an intellectual vacuum.’’
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. Stephen Hawking, RIP 1942-2018. pic.twitter.com/nAanMySqkt— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 14, 2018
It wasn’t just the scientists that mourned his passing, but tributes came from 10 Downing Street as well, where the prime minister’s account celebrated him as an ‘‘inspiration’’ and one of the ‘‘great scientists of his generation.’’
Professor Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humour and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) March 14, 2018
Top physicists working at the world’s largest particle accelerator paid tribute to Hawking as one of the great ‘‘stars’’ of physics, lauding his impact on their work and his fight against his physically debilitating illness.
Director-General Fabiola Gianotti of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, hailed Hawking for the ‘‘enthusiasm, vitality and passion for knowledge’’ that he showed during visits to the Large Hadron Collider and related facilities in and around Geneva.
In a statement, she said: ‘‘He was a brilliant example on how to face disease with courage. He was a warrior.’’
CERN’s head of theoretical physics Gian Giudice says Hawking’s work had a ‘‘great impact’’ on research at the organization.
RIP Dr Stephen Hawking. A fabulous Simpsons character, a great great man. pic.twitter.com/k7PKc7lqem— David Silverman (@tubatron) March 14, 2018
Hawking also was a cultural phenomena, appearing on shows like ‘‘The Simpsons’’ and ‘‘The Big Bang Theory’’ as well as an episode ‘‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’’ in which he played poker with actors portraying Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Films were also made about his life, including ‘‘The Theory of Everything,’’ which saw Eddie Redmayne win an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking.
Redmayne paid tribute to Hawking on Wednesday. In a statement, the actor said: ‘‘We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.’’
The British actor played the mathematical genius across decades of physical degeneration — all under Hawking’s watchful gaze. Redmayne said at the time of the film that Hawking wanted to live life to the full — and that he always had a glint in his eye.
Hawking was also known for his wit and sense of humor. Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard, recalled that when he gave lectures he would add in jokes even when it was difficult for him to speak.
I recall when we has giving lectures and it was a huge effort for him to speak (before the tracheotomy and the computer voice) he still made the effort to throw jokes in. That says something.— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 14, 2018