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British scientist Stephen Hawking dies at age 76

Hawking, one of the world's greatest scientists, has died at his home in the British university city of Cambridge.

Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, who helped unlock the mysteries of the universe, has died at the age of 76; the UK Press Association has reported citing a spokesman for the family.

In a statement on Wednesday, his children paid tribute to their father - saying he was an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," Professor Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement carried by Press Association news agency.

Hawking’s mental genius and physical disability made him a household name and inspiration across the globe.

His 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, became an unlikely worldwide bestseller.

The professor, who had motor neurone disease, died peacefully at his home in the British university city of Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Razor-sharp mind

Born on January 8, 1942, Stephen William Hawking became one of the world's most well-known scientists, earning comparisons with Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton.

His work focused on bringing together relativity - the nature of space and time - and quantum theory - how the smallest particles in the Universe behave - to explain the creation of the Universe and how it is governed.

In 1974, he became one of the youngest fellows of Britain's most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, at the age of 32.

In 1979 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, where he had moved from Oxford University to study theoretical astronomy and cosmology.

Newton was a previous holder of that prestigious post.

Inside the shell of his increasingly useless body was a razor-sharp mind, fascinated by the nature of the Universe, how it was formed and how it might end.

"My goal is simple," he once said. "It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

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