(Reuters) – Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while himself working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76.
FILE PHOTO: British scientist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking attends a launch event for a new award for science communication, called the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, in London, Britain December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
The UKâ€™s Press Association reported his death, citing a spokesman for the family.
Hawkingâ€™s formidable mind probed the very limits of human understanding both in the vastness of space and in the bizarre sub-molecular world of quantum theory, which he said could predict what happens at the beginning and end of time.
His work ranged from the origins of the universe itself, through the tantalizing prospect of time travel to the mysteries of spaceâ€™s all-consuming black holes.
But the power of his intellect contrasted cruelly with the weakness of his body, ravaged by the wasting motor neurone disease he contracted at the age of 21.
Hawking was confined for most of his life to a wheelchair. As his condition worsened, he had to resort to speaking through a voice synthesizer and communicating by moving his eyebrows.
FILE PHOTO: Jane Wilde Hawking kisses her ex-husband Stephen Hawking as she arrives at the UK premiere of the film “The Theory of Everything” which is based around Stephen Hawking’s life, at a cinema in central London December 9, 2014. Actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who play Stephen and Jane in the film, look on. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
The disease spurred him to work harder but also contributed to the collapse of his two marriages, he wrote in a 2013 memoir â€œMy Brief History.â€�
In the book he related how he was first diagnosed: â€œI felt it was very unfair – why should this happen to me,â€� he wrote.
â€œAt 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.â€�
Hawking shot to international fame after the 1988 publication of â€œÂ“A Brief History of Timeâ€�, one of the most complex books ever to achieve mass appeal, which stayed on the Sunday Times best-sellers list for no fewer than 237 weeks.
He said he wrote the book to convey his own excitement over recent discoveries about the universe.
Â“â€�My original aim was to write a book that would sell on airport bookstalls,â€� he told reporters at the time. â€œÂ“In order to make sure it was understandable I tried the book out on my nurses. I think they understood most of it.â€�
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Neil Fullick