Hawking was one of the brightest stars in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions. His family released a statement early on Wednesday, confirming his death at his home in Cambridge.
“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim said in a statement.
“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.”
Known for his innovative work with black holes and relativity, Hawking helped shape modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions.
Hawking was also the author of several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.
In 1963, he was diagnosed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease that attacks the nerves controlling voluntary movement.
Even though he was expected to live for only two more years, his disease progressed more slowly than usual, enabling him to live for more than half a century.
Due to the disease’s debilitating effects on his movement and speech, Hawking spent most of his life in a wheelchair and used a computer speech synthesizer to communicate.
"I am quite often asked: how do you feel about having ALS?" he once wrote. "The answer is, not a lot.
"I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many."
Hawking was fascinated by the nature of the universe, its formation and how it ends.
"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."
In 1974, he was recognized as one of the youngest fellows of Britain's most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society.
In 1979, he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University after leaving Oxford University to study theoretical astronomy and cosmology.