Famous British scientist Stephen Hawking has died aged 76

Last updated at 13:38
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A look back at the life of famous scientist Stephen Hawking

World famous scientist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge very early on Wednesday morning, his family said.

The British scientist was known for his work in physics, and he wrote several best-selling science books.

At the age of 22 Professor Hawking was given only a few years to live, after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

The condition makes the muscles in your body stop working over time and he quickly lost the use of his legs, arms and eventually his voice.

A special computer was built that speaks the words he wants to say.

Despite his illness, he continued to write books, make speeches and work as a scientist at the University of Cambridge.

British actor Eddie Redmayne (R) pose with British scientist Stephen Hawking (L) at the UK premiere of the film 'The Theory of Everything' in London on December 9, 2014. The film is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking, and stars Eddie Redmayne protraying the renowned astrophysicist Stephen HawkingGetty Images
Actor Eddie Redmayne got to know Stephen after playing him in the film The Theory of Everything, which was about Stephen's life.

Professor Hawking became so famous that he made guest appearances in various TV programmes like The Simpsons, and The Big Bang Theory.

He was also played by actors in both TV and film - most recently by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything.

This film told the story of Professor Hawking's life.

Although a lot of his work was very serious, he sometimes used his amazing brain to help with more showbiz matters.

In 2015 he was asked whether, in a parallel universe, Zayn Malik might still be in One Direction.

He answered: "It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe."

"And in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction."

What were his biggest scientific discoveries?
Physicist Stephen Hawking sits on stage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New YorkReuters

His books tackle questions about the universe and our existence.

His most famous book 'A Brief History of Time', was designed to be read by ordinary people and not just scientists. It was an instant success and spent years at the top of best sellers lists.

He also made an important discovery about black holes that was so significant it was named after him, becoming known as 'Hawking radiation'.

'I was superman for those few minutes'
In this file photo taken on April 26, 2007 and released by Zero G, British cosmologist Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity during a flight over the Atlantic Ocean. "It was amazing ... I could have gone on and on," Hawking, 65, said after riding for two hours on a modified jet.AFP

Professor Hawking loved space, and for his 65th birthday in 2007 he got the chance to experience micro-gravity on a special flight.

This meant he experienced weightlessness, floating like astronauts and objects do when they're in space.

Space Agency Nasa shared a video of Professor Hawking talking about this experience, where he says he felt "true freedom", and that "his smile was the biggest [his friends] had ever seen."

He said: "I was superman for those few minutes."

Tributes have been paid to Stephen Hawking's genius and his sense of humour
David Walliams, Tim Peake and Eddie Redmayne, who have been paying tribute to Stephen Hawking.Getty Images
Many well-known people have been paying tribute to Professor Hawking.

David Walliams said:

"Goodbye Stephen Hawking. Thanks for being - amongst everything else - a great laugh."

Astronaut Time Peake also paid tribute, saying:

"He inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe. His personality and genius will be sorely missed."

And actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Professor Hawking in a film, said:

"We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet."

'We will miss him forever'

Stephen has three children and three grandchildren. His daughter Lucy went to the 2015 BAFTAs with him.

British scientist Stephen Hawking (C) arrives on the red carpet with former wife Jane Hawking (L) and daughter Lucy Hawking (R) for the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House in London on February 8, 2015Getty Images
Stephen Hawking on the red carpet with former wife Jane Hawking and daughter Lucy Hawking in 2015.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim praised his "courage and persistence" and said 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.".