When did Stephen Hawking die, how old was the physicist and what was life like before his ALS diagnosis?

Described as the greatest scientific brain since Albert Einstein, the physicist was considered a medical marvel, having lived for more than half a century with the devastating condition motor neurone disease.

Who was Stephen Hawking and what was he famous for?

Stephen was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford – where his parents had decamped from North London for him to be born away from the worst of the wartime bombing raids.

When he was eight, the family moved to St Albans, attending school there before going on to Oxford University.

His dad wanted him to study medicine, and he wanted to study maths, but it wasn't available at University College so he ended up studying Natural Science – being awarded a first.

He went on to Cambridge University to study Cosmology, gaining his PhD and becoming a research fellow and lecturer.

His most notable work was on the basic laws which govern the universe – including theories about the Big Bang and black holes.

In the 1980s he decided he wanted to write a mass-market book about the universe which would be accessible to the general public.

That book was A Brief History of Time – published in 1988 – which made him a household name.

He has since published more books including Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, The Grand Design and My Brief History.

In 2014 his life story was turned into the film The Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his performance.

While he was unable to attend the ceremony, Professor Hawking posted a touching message on Facebook to say: "Well done Eddie, I'm very proud of you."

When did Stephen Hawking die?

Professor Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018, aged 76.

The English physicist died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of the morning.

In a statement, his children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: "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."

What was Stephen Hawking's disability?

While studying at Oxford, the young Stephen became increasingly clumsy, falling down the stairs and having trouble rowing.

His speech started to slur and he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a form of motor neurone disease – aged just 21, in 1963.

Doctors gave him a life expectancy of just two years – but incredibly he lived with the condition for more than 50 years.

Some experts even refuse to believe he had ALS as his life span exceeded expectations by such a massive degree.

The professor used a voice synthesiser since catching pneumonia in 1985 and had to have a tracheotomy which left him unable to speak.

A Cambridge scientist built an incredible device which enabled him to control a computer screen using his cheek for data entry, then have the computer read out what he typed.

Asked about his long life, Hawking said in 2011 he was "lucky" to be a scientist.

“It has certainly helped that I have a job and that I have been looked after so well,” Hawking told the New York Times.

“I am lucky to be working in theoretical physics, one of the few areas in which disability is not a serious handicap.”

What was his work and family life like?

From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge University – the chair held by Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity, in 1663.

Until his death, Hawking was able to carry out research, write and deliver lectures.

In January 2017 he was pictured on a cinema visit in Cambridge to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The film stars Felicity Jones, who appeared as his wife in The Theory of Everything – and recently revealed he cheekily asked her for a kiss on set.

He has three children from his marriage to his first wife Jane –  Robert, born in May 1967; Lucy, born in November 1970; and Timothy, born April 1979 – and several grandchildren.

Hawking and Jane divorced in 1995 and he married his second wife, his nurse Elaine Mason, the same year but they divorced in 2006.

In October 2018, seven months after his death, his final book Brief Answers to the Big Questions was published.

Why was he planning a trip to space?

The British boffin revealed in an interview that he was planning a trip to space.

He said that fellow Brit Sir Richard Branson had offered him a seat with his Virgin Galactic space venture.

Speaking to Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain he said his children had brought him great joy before adding: “And I can tell you what will make me happy, to travel in space.

“I thought no one would take me but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic and I said yes immediately.”


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