Reactions to the death of physicist Stephen Hawking

LONDON (Reuters) - Stephen Hawking, who sought to explain some of the most complicated questions of life while working under the shadow of a likely premature death, has died at 76.

FILE PHOTO: Physicist Stephen Hawking sits on stage during an announcement of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative with investor Yuri Milner in New York April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

For a timeline of his life:

Following is reaction:

* His children Lucy, Robert and Tim:

“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 humor 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.”

* Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web:

“We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”

* Actor Eddie Redmayne, who played Hawking in the 2014 film ‘The Theory of Everything’: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. My love and thoughts are with his extraordinary family.”

* Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge:

“Professor Hawking was a unique individual who will be remembered with warmth and affection not only in Cambridge but all over the world. His exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and the popularization of science and mathematics have left an indelible legacy. His character was an inspiration to millions. He will be much missed.”

* Professor Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge:

“Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies; he was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking. He had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and it was thought that he might not survive long enough even to finish his PhD. But, amazingly, he lived on to the age of 76.

“Even mere survival would have been a medical marvel, but of course he didn’t just survive. He became one of the most famous scientists in the world - acclaimed as a world-leading researcher in mathematical physics, for his best-selling books about space, time and the cosmos, and for his astonishing triumph over adversity.

“Tragedy struck Stephen Hawking when he was only 22. He was diagnosed with a deadly disease, and his expectations dropped to zero. He himself said that everything that happened since then was a bonus. And what a triumph his life has been. His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds – a manifestation of amazing will-power and determination.”


“His theories unlocked a universe of possibilities that we and the world are exploring. May you keep flying like superman in microgravity, as you said to astronauts on @Space_Station in 2014.”

*Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute:

“Stephen Hawking was a great physicist, a great public communicator, and a great icon for science and rationalism throughout the world. He will be sorely missed.”

* Matthew Colless, professor of astronomy & astrophysics at The Australian National University:

“Hawking was a great scientist and an inspirational figure. The universe is better understood and more interesting because he was in it.”

* British Prime Minister Theresa May:

“Stephen Hawking was a brilliant and extraordinary mind - one of the great scientists of his generation. His courage, humor and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration. His legacy will not be forgotten.”

* Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association: “He was a true genius who had a great admiration of and connection to the public. Most people, when he published ‘A Brief History of Time’, would have thought a book about physics would not sell. But Stephen knew people would want to read it – and it turned out they did. He simplified and explained, but without gimmicks. His assumption that people are curious about the universe and black holes was true. He inspired us all to wonder.”

“Importantly, he showed that disability and difference are no barriers to success; he challenged perceptions. On a personal note, I remember him - from when I was a student at his University - speeding down the middle of the road to get around, because the pavements were too bumpy. It sent out a message that ‘it doesn’t matter what you look like, you can be a scientist here’.

* Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang:

“Mr Hawking was a remarkable scientist and also was a fighter for science in his long and bitter struggle against illness. He made great contributions to science and to humanity.

“China’s leaders have met with him. China’s scientists and science lovers have had very enjoyable interactions with him. Mr Hawking followed China’s development closely. He gave a high assessment of China’s developments and progress in science. Mr Hawking also had a keen fondness for Chinese culture.

“As I understand it, under his strong persistence and with the help of his assistant, he was finally able to see China’s Great Wall. We express condolences for Mr Hawking’s passing and our sympathies to his family. I have faith that Mr Hawking and his contribution will never be forgotten.”

* Professor Paul Hardaker, Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics:

“A quite remarkable physicist and certainly a remarkable person. He made several fundamental and lasting contributions to cosmology but is probably best known by the public for his passion and enthusiasm in sharing his knowledge of how the universe works.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland and Guy Faulconbridge in London and Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Janet Lawrence and David Stamp