"He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years," according to a statement released by his family to British media early Wednesday morning.
"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 for ever."
The Hawking family also noted that Stephen died peacefully at his home in Cambridge, England.
Tributes to Hawking have already begun pouring in from around the globe.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, wrote on Twitter:Born on January 8, 1942 (exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei), Hawking was diagnosed at the age of 21 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which resulted in his being confined to a wheelchair nearly his entire life. He also famously spoke through a computer and a vocal synthesizer.
In 1974, he theorized what is now known as Hawking radiation, the radical notion that matter can escape from the grip of a black hole. In fact, Hawking's work suggests that an isolated black hole would slowly evaporate away and cease to exist.
By 2002, Hawking said that he would like to have the equation for Hawking radiation engraved on his tombstone.
The theorist held the Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a position once held by Sir Isaac Newton, from 1979 until 2009.
In addition to his scientific accolades, Hawking was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2009.
"From his wheelchair he's led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos," Obama said. "In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on Earth."
Two years later, in 2011, Hawking toldThe Guardian that he was not afraid of dying.
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years," Hawking said. "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
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